India is just about a month or two away from deciding the winner of the $10.4-billion contract for 126 combat aircraft, but the Indian Air Force (IAF) is afraid the losers among the six bidders for the deal might derail the process of quick acquisition by knocking on the corruption watchdog’s doors.
The purchase process, which is at a very mature stage, is all set for the cost negotiation stage that will be decided in a week or two and the final winner for signing the contract would be decided by September, Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik told a press conference here Thursday at Aero India 2011 at Yelahanka air base.
“But some dissatisfied vendor among those not chosen for cost negotiations may put a spoke in the wheel and derail the process by going to the Central Vigilance Commissioner with complaints leading to a delay, though we want to quickly sign the contract,” Naik said.
American aerospace majors Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Russian MiG-RAC, Swedish Saab, French Dassault and European consortium EADS are in the race for the deal whose tender was issued in August 2007.
The IAF completed the flight and weapons evaluation of the six contending aircraft F-16, F/A-18, MiG-35, Gripen, Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon last year and submitted its report to the defense ministry, which is studying the capabilities of all the planes.
When the cost negotiation stage is reached, the government is expected to call only one of the six companies for talks, thereby signaling that the other five firms are out of contention.
Asked about the delay in finalizing the winner for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal, whereas the IAF had carried out a quick and smooth flight and weapons evaluation, Naik said since the six aircraft were evaluated on 600 technical points, there were several queries and counter-queries from the defense ministry requiring a lot of education.
Defense Minister Arackaparambil Kurian Antony said Wednesday that there would be no political interference in the MMRCA deal and that the winner would be chosen on merits and capabilities of the competing aircraft.
Antony said that the government would not be prejudiced against or in favor of any country but would go by the evaluation report of the IAF.