RAFAEL FACES ROUGH WEATHER AHEAD IN INDIA’S $11 BILLION MMRCA TENDER
By Bulbul Singh
16 Mar 12. India’s $11 billion Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMRCA)
programme faces the threat of being shelved temporarily as the Indian defence ministry begins probe into charges of manipulation. A Member of Parliament, Mysoora Reddy in a letter last month addressed to the Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony, had charged that the French Rafael of France could score over Typhoon aircraft through manipulation.
“The alleged manipulation of the evaluation process in picking the L-1
contractor, which resulted in a decision to procure 126 MMRCA, has raised serious apprehensions not only across the country but also worldwide. If a proper decision is not taken, the country’s credibility will be at stake,” Reddy said in his letter to Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony.
Antony in his reply to Reddy has promised a probe into the allegations made by Reddy.
Though Reddy has not given details of how the manipulations occurred, the Indian Defence Ministry is likely to re-work all the calculations after the Flight Trial stage including the opening up of the commercial bids which could take up to two months. The probe is likely to delay the finalization of MMRCA by as many months and the tender, if finalized could now be done only the year-end.
Rafael and Typhoon had emerged as the two competitors from amongst a total of six competitors after the Flight Trials and F-16, F-18 of United States, MiG-35 of Russia and Grippen of Sweden were rejected after the Flight Trials. Thereafter Rafael emerged as the preferred aircraft on the basis of price, which was calculated on life cycle costs, maintenance and transfer technology.
Though no figure has been given by the Indian defence ministry on the price calculated of the two aircraft sources say the Rafael had worked out around 15 per cent cheaper than the Typhoon.
The British Prime Minister, had asked for a full review of the MMRCA selection process last month, a demand not acceded to by the Indian Defence Minister, A.K. Antony.
The probe could throw up some errors in calculations, which can derail the whole programme said an official of the Indian Air Force. The Americans had been upset over the rejection of the F-16 and F-18 in the MMRCA selection process.
A diplomat of the U.S. Embassy said, India could have saved up to $6 billion spread over the next 40 years had it selected the F-16. Without giving the break-up of drawing this figure, the diplomat said, the price element should also have been taken into consideration in the selection process.
The total cost of the MMRCA is likely to swell to over $18 billion if the inflation and currency fluctuations are taken into consideration. The U.S. diplomat added that the Indian defence ministry should give out the price quote of each of the competitors in the interest of transparency.
So far it is not known how Antony wants to go into the probe process of MMRCA, but the cut out date of the probe could become important, as the Americans would want the probe from the Technical Evaluation onwards.
The Flight Trials report had cleared only Rafael and Typhoon and had rejected the other aircraft. The Flight Trial report was based on over 640 parameters which were not made known to the competitors.
Under the terms of purchase, the first 18 aircraft will come in a fly-away condition while the remaining 108 will be manufactured under a technology transfer process. Out of the 108 aircraft to be license produced in India, 74 would be Single Seater and 34 Twin Seater aircraft. The delivery will begin three years after the contract is signed. The 18 aircraft to be procured on a fly-by-wire basis would include 12 Single Seater and 6 Twin Seaters and will be equipped with all the weaponry which is required by the Indian Air Force.
India’s state-owned Bangalore based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited
(HAL) will carry out the license prod