European company MBDA and Israel's Rafael are going head to head in two major guided weapons projects for the Indian air force, with decisions to potentially come from late this year.
First up is a requirement to provide a next-generation close combat missile for the Hindustan Aeronautics-built Sepecat Jaguar, with the companies respectively offering their ASRAAM and Python 5 designs.
The Jaguar integration poses a unique challenge for the bidders, as the selected weapon must be carried on a rail launcher above the aircraft's wing.
Both companies will provide test weapons for captive carriage flights to be conducted in India within the next several months, and Indian observers will visit Israel and the UK to witness live test firings in the second half of this year.
"We are confident of integrating the weapon with the Indian air force's Jaguar, and have already done work to ensure its compatibility," says Frank Morgan, MBDA's head of UK airborne systems. The company several years ago fitted the type beneath the wing of a Royal Air Force Jaguar as part of a trials programme for the service's now-retired type.
Rafael's director of air-to-air programmes Shmuel Paz points to the company's past experience in integrating Python-series missiles with around 10 combat aircraft types. He also cites its recent success in adding the Derby beyond visual-range missile to the Indian navy's British Aerospace Sea Harrier FRS51 fighters.
The air force is also to choose between rival systems as part of an upgrade package for its Dassault Mirage 2000s. MBDA and Sagem are offering the latter's AASM bomb guidance kit, while Rafael is promoting its 2,000lb (907kg) Spice 2000 design. "We hope that this year will be a year for a decision," says Rafael air-to-surface systems director Yuval Miller.