US confirms India fighter rejection

Washington DC
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US officials have confirmed reports that India rejected both American bids for the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) contract, leaving the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon still in the running for the $10 billion deal.

"We are deeply disappointed by this news," the US Department of Defense says in a statement.

One day after Saab announced India's rejection of its Gripen bid, Boeing also has confirmed that its offer based on an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet with improved engines was not selected on an internal shortlist by India's Ministry of Defence.

"Our next step is to request and receive a debrief from the Indian air force," Boeing says in a statement. "Once we have reviewed the details, we will make a decision concerning our possible options."

 
© Aero India
The Super Hornet was flown at February's Aero India show near Bengaluru

Lockheed Martin has deferred questions about the status of its F-16IN bid to US government officials.

US defence and government officials have lobbied aggressively on behalf of Boeing and Lockheed for the MMRCA contract. Since 2005, India has signed multi-billion dollar deals for Boeing P-8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and Lockheed C-130J transports, among other major arms contracts.

But the Indian air force's requirement for 126 multirole fighters was viewed in Washington DC as a prize and a symbol of improving strategic relations between the nations.

"We look forward to continuing to grow and develop our defence partnership with India," a DoD statement says.

The downselect keeps Dassault's export hopes for the Rafale alive as it continues to compete for orders in the United Arab Emirates, Brazil and elsewhere. The Eurofighter consortium, meanwhile, also has a chance to expand its order book as spending pressures grow on European defence budgets.

Indian officials have reportedly set a timeline to select the winning bidder in September.

The RSK MiG-35 had also been in contention for the MMRCA contract, but the Russian company's decision to not bring the aircraft to February's Aero India show near Bengaluru was viewed as an indication of its failure to meet Indian air force requirements.