Trials of multi-role combat aircraft in April-May

January 17th, 2009 - 10:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Jan 17 (IANS) The Indian Air Force (IAF) plans to conduct trials in April-May of six different medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMCA) being considered for its order of 126 fighters, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major said Saturday.“The technical evaluation of the MMCA is almost complete. Hopefully, field trials should commence by April-May this year,” Major said in his address at the annual Air Chief Marshal L.M. Katre Memorial Lecture here.

The IAF intends to purchase the combat jets at an estimated cost of $10 billion to replace its ageing Russian-made MiG-21 fleet in phases. Six global aircraft majors submitted their bids in April 2008 for the lucrative order.

The bidders are the US aerospace majors Boeing with its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Lockeheed Martin with its F-16, the Swedish Gripen, the French Rafale, the Russian MiG-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The selected bidder will have to re-invest 50 percent of the multi-billion dollar contract in India as part of the offset obligations mandated under the Defence Procurement Policy-2008.

The request for proposals (RFP) for the 126 combat jets was floated in August 2007 after the bidders responded to the air force request for information earlier.

Major said the present fighter aircraft fleet was being enhanced with the induction of newer and better platforms in face of the depletion due to obsolescence and regular phase out of the ageing aircraft.

“The Jaguars, MiG-27s and MiG 21-BIS have been upgraded with latest avionics and weapons systems. Similarly, the MiG-29 upgrade is underway and the Mirage 2000 upgarde will commence soon. The induction of the Sukhoi fighter (Su-30MKI) has been accelerated with the indigenous version from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) facility at Nashik,” Major pointed out.

The air chief also hoped the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme would gain momentum for the initial operational clearance and induction of the aircraft, christened Tejas, into squadron service by 2010-11.

In the case of the helicopter fleet, a comprehensive modernisation programme is underway, with the Chetak and Cheeta copters are being replaced with 125 light utility copters being acquired through a global tender.

“The contract for 80 Mi-17 helicopters with advanced glass cockpits has already been signed. They will be inducted in phases from 2010 to 2013. We are processing a proposal to procure 22 attack copters, which will be best in its class. We have signed a contract with HAL for 38 advanced light helicopter (ALH), including 16 armed version with new Shakti engines and glass cockpit,” Major pointed out.

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