The 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft tender has the big six fighter aircraft companies salivating at the prospect of the largest such order in 16 years. While Boeing has already achieved some success in getting orders from the Indian government in the last year, notably with the P-8I maritime aircraft deal as well as the Harpoon missile deal (although the last is reportedly a government-to-government sale), it is primarily the MMRCA deal that all the companies are looking at for a big-ticket order from India.
The USD 12 billion order is so important for arms vendors that at a recent defense seminar in New Delhi, one of the speakers, a representative of a foreign air force was told, first politely, and then rather sharply, to wrap up his speech because it seemed to be more of a sales-pitch for one of the aircraft in contention for the MMRCA deal, than an academic talk on his experiences with aircraft from different generations.
While the gentleman’s speech had begun well, the number of things he mentioned about one particular aircraft that were ‘outstanding’ and ‘no problem’ made the audience cringe after a point and the chair, noting the restlessness of the panel and after repeated requests to wind up (he was also way over time), had to ask the gentleman to kindly return to his seat. The adjectives seemed especially over-the-top since he was comparing aircrafts from entirely different generations. People in the audience who were nationals of the country that makes the aircraft in question were seen shaking their heads and looking away awkwardly embarrassed at the gentleman’s persistence and failure to take the hint from the chair.
It was clearly the wrong forum for a sales pitch, if it was indeed one, since it left members of the defense establishment present on the occasion quite uncomfortable. It is difficult to believe an arms company would employ this sort of salesmanship, so lacking in subtlety. But next week, it may well become reasonably clear if this was in fact a sales-pitch or just a fighter pilot thrilled with his new toy.