India trims MMRCA contest to two bidders

Washington DC
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India's medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) contest has come down to a two-way fight between the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon, with four other candidates having been dropped from consideration after failing to meet technical requirements.

The Indian defence ministry made no formal announcement about its decision, but with bids due to expire late last month it was left to the eliminated contenders to confirm the shortlist for the roughly $10 billion, 126-aircraft deal.

Saab was the first to announce its removal from the contest, on 27 April. The Swedish company said it had "received information from the Indian ministry of defence that Gripen has not been shortlisted". It added: "We will closely monitor the future process and provide additional information if requested."

mmrca graphic

With local reports already suggesting that only the Rafale and Typhoon remained in the competition, Boeing and Lockheed Martin deferred comment to the US government. Confirming the removal of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-16 the following day, the US Department of Defense said it was "deeply disappointed".

A Russian proposal with the RSK MiG-35 was already considered to have been out of the running, after the aircraft failed to make an appearance at February's Aero India show near Bengaluru.

Boeing officials had speculated during the show that the Super Hornet would make the shortlist with the Rafale and Typhoon. "Our next step is to request and receive a debrief from the Indian air force," the company said. "Once we have reviewed the details, we will make a decision concerning our possible options."

The shortlist for the MMRCA deal had been expected since the six competitors submitted their proposals last July. Indian officials have reportedly set a timeline to select the winning bidder in September, with the extended bids from Dassault and Eurofighter to expire on 31 December.

Backed by key equipment suppliers Snecma and Thales, Dassault is still seeking its first export buyer for the Rafale. EADS is heading the Typhoon campaign in India, but is backed by its Eurofighter partners Alenia Aeronautica, BAE Systems in an attempt to expand the type's customer base beyond Austria, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Spain and the UK.

In addition to meeting the air force's operational requirements, New Delhi is seeking the greatest amount of technology transfer possible, with a 50% offset requirement.

  • Additional reporting by Craig Hoyle in London