Flight trials in May of combat jets in running for IAF order

April 15th, 2009 - 10:40 pm ICT by IANS  

F-16 New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) Flight trials are likely to begin in May of planes in the running for a $10 billion Indian Air Force (IAF) order for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA), a top commander said Wednesday.
“Hopefully, the flight trials shall commence by the end of May,” IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major told reporters on the sidelines of a book release here.

“The technical evaluation is over as far as we are concerned,” he added.

At least two sets of flight trials are likely to be conducted in summer and winter as the competing jets are put through their paces in the icy Himalayan heights, the deserts of Rajasthan and the humid conditions of south India.

Once the field is narrowed down to two or three, the price bids will be opened and negotiations will begin to extract the best deal from the manufacturers, an official said.

The entire process is likely to take a year-and-a-half, if not longer, before the IAF zeros in on its choice of aircraft.

Six aircraft are in the fray: the US Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Lockheed Martin F-16 Super Viper, the French Rafale, the Swedish Gripen, the Russian MiG-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon that is built by a four-nation European consortium.

The IAF had August 28, 2007 floated a global tender for the jets.

Eighteen aircraft will be purchased in flyaway condition and the remaining 108 manufactured in the country under a transfer of technology (TOT) agreement with the chosen supplier.

The aircraft are envisaged to have a lifecycle of 40 years from the time of delivery.

India’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had cleared the RFP at a meeting here June 29, 2007 chaired by Defence Minister A.K. Antony.

The IAF tender also contains an offsets clause under which 50 percent of the money paid to the chosen vendor will have to be reinvested in India’s defence manufacturing sector.

The offsets clause that was introduced in the Defence Procurement Procedure-2006 (DPP-2006) mandates that 30 percent of the cost of military purchases exceeding Rs.3 billion has to be reinvested in the country. The offsets obligation has been raised in the case of the IAF order given its higher value than most other defence deals.

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