The Indian Air Force has denied reports that the Dassault Rafale has been eliminated from the country’s medium multi-role combat aircraft competition.?xml:namespace>
“We have not ruled anyone out yet in the MMRCA competition,” says an IAF spokesman, who confirmed that the service is responsible for evaluating the contenders. “All of the tests have not been completed. The technical evaluations are only just over and we are scheduled to begin the flight tests next month. Everyone is still in the competition.”
Last week, several Indian newspapers reported that the Rafale was eliminated after failing the technical evaluation. When contacted, Dassault said that it is waiting for information from the French embassy in ?xml:namespace>India as negotiations are conducted on a government-to-government basis. The embassy had no comment.
The aircraft was not brought to the Aero India 2009 show in Bangalore in February, leading to speculation that it was in danger of being eliminated from the competition. A senior French official, however, defended the no-show at the time saying that the country’s aircraft were required for NATO operations in Afghanistan.
Apart from the Rafale (above), the other five contenders for the $10-12 billion contract are the Boeing F/A-18E/F, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16, RSK MiG-35, and Saab Gripen. India is scheduled to begin hot weather trials in May, and the aircraft will be tested in cold weather and humid conditions later in the year.
This is not the first time that the Indian media have reported that an aircraft has been eliminated from this closely watched competition. Early this year, it was reported that the Gripen had been knocked out but this was later proven untrue.
India is seeking 126 aircraft in the competition, of which 18 will be bought in fly-away condition and 108 license produced by Hindustan Aeronautics in the country. There is also an option for another 64 aircraft. The fighter chosen will replace the IAF’s RSK MiG-21s.