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AERO INDIA: Uncertainty over MMRCA time-frame

sectorxx Siva Govindasamy Bangalore

MMRCA timeframe remains uncertain

India's medium multi-role combat aircraft competition could be wrapped up by September, IAF chief PV Naik said during the Aero India air show in Bangalore.

However, industry observers believe his statement was aimed at pushing the defence ministry into accelerating the decision-making process.

"We submitted our report to the ministry in end-July [2010]. Thereafter, there were many queries and counter-queries. Many of the hurdles have been crossed and we believe the price negotiations will begin in a week or two. I'm hopeful of a decision by September," says Naik.

However, he added that "dissatisfied vendors" may try to jeopardise the process.

Observers say senior air force officials are unhappy the ministry's lengthy decision-making process is affecting operational readiness. They add that the six contenders have also not submitted their offset documents - a requirement under India's military procurement process.

Price negotiations could also take months, they add, pointing to lengthy discussions between India and other countries such as Russia and France for various procurements and upgrades.

The six contenders are the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16IN, RSK MiG-35 and Saab Gripen IN. Some officials from companies at the show expect India to make a decision within the next year.

A Boeing official sparked debate among competitors at the show by predicting three twin-engine aircraft would make the shortlist.

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