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India MRCA Contest Will Be Decided Soon


India said  It would begin crucial contract
negotiations in the next fortnight for an estimated $12 billion order
for 126 fighter jets.

The announcement came a day after Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony
said the long-delayed contract to modernise India’s decades-old aircraft
fleet would be handed out during the next fiscal year starting April 1.

“The contract negotiation committee will begin discussions in a week or
two,” Indian Airforce chief P.V. Naik told reporters on the sidelines of
South Asia’s biggest airshow in Bangalore, the hub of India’s aviation

Six global aeronautical companies, which are in a dogfight to grab the
deal to sell the 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), each
claimed at the airshow that their products were the world’s best.

“The Indian airforce is very pleased with the performance of the F-16
and we are hopeful of being shortlisted,” said Orville Prins of
U.S-based Lockheed Martin which wants to sell its frontline fighter jet
to India.

India, the biggest buyer of military hardware among emerging nations,
issued the request for proposals to the six firms in 2007 and the
long-awaited trials of the aircraft competing for the deal began a year

Industry sources say the F-16 and Seattle-based Boeing, which is
offering its F-18 “Superhornet,” have emerged as front-runners after the
gruelling trials.

The contract includes the outright purchase of 18 combat aircraft by
2012 with another 108 to be built in India. India would also have an
option to buy 64 more such jets.

The other companies bidding include France’s Dassault Aviation, pan-European manufacturer Eurofighter Typhoon and Sweden’s Saab.

Saab will have the “technological lead in five years,” said Peter Nilsson, an executive from the Swedish firm.

India also announced Thursday it is set to agree a contract with
Dassault for the upgrade of its fleet of Mirage fighter aircraft but
would not disclose the value of the deal.

Russia, a longtime military supplier to India, pipped its Western rivals
last December when it signed a mammoth agreement with New Delhi to
co-produce some 250 stealth fighter jets worth $30 billion by 2017.