2 min readAirbus to compete in IAF tanker tender

Airbus will be submitting a bid in the tender for the purchase of six mid-air-refueling aircraft by the Indian Air Force (IAF), according to company sources. The deadline for the submission was pushed back by a month after being originally marked for mid-December.

While, earlier, two of the three potential vendors, Boeing and Airbus, had been waiting to see who won the US $ 35 billion KC-X program contract to supply 179 mid-air-refueling tankers to the United States Air Force (USAF), in a postponed-decision that was due last month, the latter has made up its mind about the Indian tender and intends to submit its bid by the January 12, 2011 deadline.

As reported by StratPost earlier, the response to the Indian RFI was contingent on the result of the US tender as neither company wanted to commit to work an assembly line for only six aircraft in the absence of the much larger US order.

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In the meantime, there has been much drama over the KC-X program, with the USAF having inadvertently sent their evaluation of the aircraft pitched by each company to the rival vendor. While Airbus admitted having a look at the evaluation, Boeing was reported to have sent back the evaluation of the Airbus aircraft without going through the document. Later, however, the USAF, sent both companies a copy of the evaluation of the rival aircraft, presumably to maintain parity.

There have also been reports quoting Loren Thompson, an analyst at the Lexington Institute in Virgina, and considered close to Boeing, indicating pessimism at the prospect of Boeing winning the KC-X. Tellingly, Airbus is also reported to have begun inviting bids to supply equipment for their tanker plant in Mobile, Alabama.

For now, both companies will be keenly looking at how the KC-X program plays out, with Boeing also having to consider its response to the Indian tender in light of the Airbus intention. In the meantime, the aircraft rejected by the IAF the last time the tender played out, the Russian IL-78, will remain in the fray. The IAF had chosen the Airbus A-330 MRTT but the Indian Finance Ministry vetoed the purchase, saying it was too expensive, especially in comparison to the IL-78, an aircraft which the IAF already operates. Boeing did not compete in that tender.

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