Summer trials for 126 medium-range, multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force (IAF) are set to kick off in August, with the government issuing the letter of invite to six contenders.
The process of inviting the suppliers will be completed in the first week of July. The trials will begin the following month and continue till April 2010.
The six companies in contention for the $10-billion deal are European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), which has offered the Eurofighter Typhoon; American firms Lockheed Martin (F-16 Falcon/Block 52) and Boeing Integrated Defence System (F/A-18F Super Hornet); Russian Aircraft Corp’s MiG-35; Swedish Saab’s Gripen (JAS-39) and French major, Dassault’s Rafale. The contenders have reportedly agreed to participate in the field trials on a no-cost, no-commitment basis. This means that contenders would bring their aircraft and crew, with no cost to the government.
Industry sources said the trials would take place in three phases. “The first phase is usually a familiarisation phase, where the contenders would be staying at a training base. The second phase would initially be conducted in the country under local conditions and subsequently in the country of origin for weapons,” explained sources.
However, since they are starting late, only four of the six firms would be able to complete the summer trials by October and the rest would conduct their summer trials in March-April next year, said sources. The trials would be conducted in both summer and winter in varying climactic and altitude conditions in the cold Ladakh region of north India, the desert region of Rajasthan and hot and humid south India.
The evaluation trials would be conducted by various teams composed of test pilots, engineers and maintenance crew, which will be drawn primarily from the Aircraft Systems and Testing Establishment (ASTE).
State-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) would also be involved to look at issues concerning technology transfer and industrial partnership, besides the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification.
While commercial negotiations are expected to begin once the IAF completes its evaluation sometime in 2010, sources hoped the trials would not be delayed further, as it would not only make the existing technology outdated, but also push up the cost of the machines.
Once the trials and commercial bids are over, two to three top contenders would be shortlisted. “The list is based on three criteria — technical and field trial requirements, cost of the aircraft and country’s strategic requirement,”…
explained sources. Under the present terms and conditions, the first aircraft deliveries will commence only four years after a contract is signed.
The MMRCA deal is part of the modernisation plan in which India would be spending about $30 billion in the next five years to replace or upgrade obsolete weaponry and fleet….