India will finalise its originally-estimated $10.5-billion contract for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) with the selected Dassault Aviation for its Rafale fighter jets within this fiscal that ends in March 2013.
It is also readying to open the commercial bids in the tenders for 15 heavy lift helicopters and six mid-air refuellers, apart getting all set to sign a $1.4-billion deal for 22 Apache attack helicopters from the American aerospace major Boeing's stable.
These apart negotiations are also on to buy four more Aerostat radars from Israel at a likely cost of over $400 million.
Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Normal Anil Kumar Browne said in Bangalore that MMRCA negotiations with Dassault Aviation is in progress, where the costing of the procurement, transfer of technology, Defence offset obligations are being discussed as per the tender procedure.
"The negotiations are absolutely on. We hope that at least this financial year we should be able to finish the negotiations and finalise the deal," Browne said.
"It (MMRCA) is a very complex project, as we are discussing various areas like transfer of technology, the offset (clause), what HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd) will do and the cost as well," he was quoted as saying.
"Costing is also being discussed. As per the RFP requirement, costing is part of the negotiations going on with Rafale fighter, which was selected through a global bidding," he added.
IAF need the 126 Rafale to replace the ageing 1960s vintage MiG-21 planes and its variants of Soviet era and Russian origin.
Under the Request for Proposals of August 2007, first 18 Rafales will be built in France and transported to India, while the remaining 108 will be built in India by the Bangalore-based public sector undertaking Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). However, recent French media reports have suggested that close to 50 per cent of the MMRCA order will be made in France, suggesting that the components and such stuff will come from that country.
The MMRCA order is likely to cost India close to $20 billion, as Indian Defence ministry officials have admitted that there would be a cost escalation in view of the over five years’ time taken by it to decide the winner and finalise the contract. The $10.5 billion cost, cited by the RFP, was only an Acceptance of Necessity (AON) to provide budgetary allocations for the future purchase.
Dassault Aviation's commercial offer turned out to be the lowest of bids after Indian Defence ministry compared its price with European consortium Cassidian's for its Eurofighter Typhoon planes in late January this year. The commercial bids were opened in November 2011, after the two companies were down selected in April that year.
At present, the Indian Defence ministry is negotiating the contract and the cost of the deal with Dassault.
"We are going to very shortly open bids for 15 heavy-lift helicopters and six air-to-air refuelling tankers. We are also negotiating for 22 Apache attack choppers, as the bids have already been opened," Browne said.
For the heavy lift helicopters tender, Boeing has offered its CH-47 Chinook against the Russian Mi-26 helicopters. The 15 helicopters are needed to replace the ageing fleet of Russian Mi-26 helicopters. IAF at present operates three Mi-26 helicopters, after one of the four it originally had crashed in December 2010.
European firm Airbus with its A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) and the Russian IL-78 are in the race for the air-to-air refuelling tankers.
"We are negotiating with Boeing for buying 22 Apache choppers this year," Browne said.
AH-64D Apache Longbow outwitted the Russian Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant's Mi-28 Havoc for the contract under which the American attack helicopters will come along with a supply of 812 AGM-114L-3 Hellfire Longbow missiles, 542 AGM-114R-3 Hellfire-II missiles, 245 Stinger Block I-92H missiles and 12 AN/APG-78 fire-control radars.
"Negotiations are also on to acquire four additional Aerostat radars from Israel for detecting and tracking low-flying aircraft," he added.
Of the two Aerostats supplied by Israel in 2007-08, one was damaged in an accident in 2009. The contract for the two Aerostats was signed for $175 million with Israeli firm Rafael in March 2002.
The air chief, who reviewed the home-grown Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project, admitted that it was behind schedule in getting the initial operational clearance (IOC).
"I reviewed the LCA project recently. There have been some delays. We are, however, trying to catch up on time so that we can at least get IOC by next year," he added.