Combat jet tender: India to finalise lowest bidder in six weeks

July 26th, 2011 - 9:52 pm ICT by IANS  

F-16 New Delhi, July 26 (IANS) India is likely to decide in the next six weeks on the lowest bidder among the two manufacturers left in the fray for a $10.4-billion tender for 126 combat jets, a top commander said Tuesday.

“We will have the L1 (lowest bidder) in the next five to six weeks,” Indian Air Force (IAF) chief P.V. Naik said at his last press conference before he retires this month-end.

The IAF has already “completed the benchmarking” of the two aircraft — French Dassault’s Rafale and European consortium EADS Cassidian’s Eurofighter Typhoon — left in the fray after a down-select in April this year among the six contenders.

The defence ministry has to accept that benchmarking and then the cost negotiations committee will take up opening of the commercial bids, Naik said.

“I have been very upbeat about it. I hope it comes through,” he said.

The tender, described by some as the mother-of-all-deals, had been issued in August 2007 and after gruelling flight and weapons trials, the IAF had eliminated American firms Boeing’s F/A-18 and Lockheed Martin’s F-16s, Russian United Aircraft Corporation’s MiG-35 and Swedish SAAB’s Gripen from the race in April this year.

The tender also has a provision to increase the order by another 63 aircraft to make a total of 189 at the cost negotiated for the 126 initial order. The first 18 of the 126 jets will be bought in a fly-away condition and the remaining 108 will be manufactured by the Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited under the transfer of technology route.

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