DASSAULT STAYS IN RACE FOR INDIA’S $ 10 BILLION MMRCA PROGRAM
By Bulbul Singh
20 May 09. In a major turn-around, Dassault of France is said to be still in the race for India’s $10 billion MMRCA program. Last month, a senior Indian defence ministry official said that Dassault was rejected, although Dassault said thereafter that no official note had been sent to this effect. Sources in the Indian defence ministry now say Dassault has qualified in the Technical Evaluation round and will enter the flight trial.
The next stage will be the flight trials which are expected to begin after the monsoons in September which will be held in India at no cost to the Indian Air Force, the vendor will have to pay for the entire trial which is expected to be around $5 million for each vendor.
An executive of an overseas defence company participating in the MMRCA bid said, “This development is a major jolt to the credibility of the MMRCA procurement process.”
The purchase of 126 MMRCA is the biggest ever Program for the Indian defence ministry. The executive hoped that the MMRCA will go ahead to its final stage without major hiccups, adding that they hope that there will be transparency in the program.
Last month a senior Indian defence ministry official revealed to a section of the media [informally] that the Rafale had been rejected by the Technical Evaluation Committee of the Indian Air Force. No grounds for rejection were given by the official.
One month later, defence ministry officials say that Dassault is
still very much in the race. One defence ministry official said no official note has been sent to Dassault that they have been rejected.
Immediately after the stories in the media to the effect that
Dassault being out of race, there was hectic activity by the
French. Sources added even the French Ambassador in India Jérôme
Bonnafont had also talked to the Indian Defence Secretary
Vijay Singh on the matter. A high-level team from Dassault and the French Defence Ministry had also visited New Delhi to discuss the issue. Sources in the Indian defence ministry said the hectic diplomatic pressure worked to ensure that Dassault is not rejected at the Technical Evaluation Committee stage.
A diplomat of the French Embassy claimed that Rafale is the best aircraft in the world, adding that the aircraft cannot be rejected on technical basis.
In August 2007, 15 months after issuing the RFI, the Indian government issued a formal RFP to six overseas bidder, including Lockheed Martin with their F-16, Boeing with F-18/A Super Hornets, French Dassault with Rafale fighters, Swedish SAAB’s Gripen JAS-39,
Eurofighter Typhoon and Russian Aircraft Corporation’s just unveiled
Under the proposal, 18 fighters would be bought off the shelf and
remaining 108 manufactured under technology transfer in India. The RFP
also stipulates an option of India purchasing another 64 fighters
under the same terms and conditions. The first batch of 18, which
would be supplied in a flyaway condition, are expected to be inducted
in IAF by 2014 onwards. The new fighters were expected to have a
lifeline of over 40 years or an actual flying time of 6,000 hours,
whichever is earlier.
The MMRCA will be in the range of 14-30 tons and used for air
defence and air-to-surface operations.
India’s state-owned Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited
(HAL) has been designated as the production agency which will
coordinate and manufacture the license production of the aircraft.
The MMRCA would be mounted with Beyond Visual Range missiles,
air-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles, medium range missiles,
anti-radiation missiles and Precision Guided Munition. It will also
have the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar.
The main features of the MMRCA besides life cycle costs will be
mid-air refueling ability, an AESA radar, long-range capability and
precision strike Multir