Europeans eye 10 bn pound Indian arms deal

June 21st, 2009 - 5:12 pm ICT by IANS  

F-16 London, June 21 (IANS) European defence ministers are meeting in Spain Monday ahead of the start of Indian trials for a new generation of fighter aircraft in a multi-billion-pound deal eyed by major manufacturers across the world.
Although the summit in Seville is expected to focus on the fate of the European A400M military transport aircraft, there is reported to be mounting interest in the Indian competition that is set to begin next month and expected to last a year.

Six fighter aircraft are taking part in the competition, hoping to land a deal that could be worth up to 10 billion pounds - Eurofighter, built by a consortium of four European countries, Boeing’s F/A-18, Lockheed Martin’s F-16, France’s Rafale, Russia’s MiG-35 and Sweden’s Gripen.

India is interested in buying 130 modern fighter jets and the trials are expected to take place throughout the subcontinent, The Sunday Times reported.

The paper quoted unnamed sources as saying at the Paris Air Show last week that the Indian contest could come down to a race between the Eurofighter and the F/A-18.

The British part of the Eurofighter project is led by British Aerospace (BAe), Britain’s largest defence group that has outsourced manufacture of the Hawk trainer jet to the Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

The paper said the Eurofighter has been beset with problems, with some defence analysts and politicians calling for the project to be curtailed.

“Designed as an air-superiority fighter to combat Soviet bombers, the aircraft has been modified to make it more versatile, but this has not stopped calls for its cancellation. Britain has agreed in principle to buy part of the project’s third and final batch of planes,” it said.

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