The French Rafale fighter has been knocked out of the race for the
‘mother of all defence deals’, the Rs 42,000 crore (approx. 9 billion
euros—Ed) project to acquire 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) for IAF, leaving five jets in the fray now.
Defence ministry (MoD) sources on Thursday said Rafale had “fallen
short” on “several counts” listed in the GSQRs (general staff qualitative requirements) drawn up by IAF. “It did not pass muster in the technical evaluation of the bids submitted by the six contenders,” said a source.
The move is sure to rile France, which like other countries in the
contention for what will be the largest global defence contract had
mounted a high-voltage campaign for the $10.4 billion MMRCA contract.
“We have no confirmation from the Indian MoD… We are extremely
surprised since there was no technical lacuna in our bid,” said a
Incidentally, India and France are
also yet to settle their bitter differences for the upgrade of the 51
Mirage-2000s in IAF’s combat fleet despite being locked in negotiations
for over two years now. Sources said French fighter manufacturer
Dassault Aviation wants well over Rs 12,000 crore for the project, but
India is not prepared to pay a penny over Rs 10,000 crore.
As for the MMRCA battle, India will now invite only American F/A-18 Super Hornet (Boeing) and F-16 Falcon (Lockheed Martin), Russian MiG-35 (United Aircraft Corporation), Swedish Gripen (Saab) and Eurofighter Typhoon (consortium of British, German, Spanish and Italian companies) to take part in the field trials which are likely to begin from July-August.
“IAF HQ is drawing up the modalities for the field trials to begin
in around three months,” said the source. There will be at least two
sets of trials conducted in summer and winter, with the five jets being
flown in the snow-capped peaks of Leh, the scorching Rajasthan deserts
(probably Jaisalmer) and the humid conditions of south India (probably
The race, of course, is actually quite a marathon. The commercial
bids will only be opened, examined and compared after a shortlist is
made of two to three top contenders following the extensive field
trials and staff evaluation.
With the final negotiations to begin thereafter, the entire process
is expected to take a minimum of two years before the contract is
actually inked. IAF hopes to induct the first lot of the new fighters —
18 jets will be bought off-the-shelf, while the rest will be
manufactured in India under transfer of technology — by 2012-2013.