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India Forces Fighter Rivals To Rebid
« on: May 04, 2010, 05:43:15 PM »
India Forces Fighter Rivals To Rebid

May 3, 2010

By Neelam Mathews, AviationWeek
New Delhi
India has proved once again that it cannot push the pedal too hard for speedy procurement of a major weapon system. It has been forced to notify vendors seeking the coveted 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) award that they will need to rebid, prompting a schedule delay that might drive up costs.

The bidders represent the industry’s biggest fighter manufacturers—MiG Russian Aircraft Corp., Dassault, Eurofighter, Saab, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

The vendors were expected to complete flight trials early last month, giving the Indian defense ministry time to complete its bid evaluation by April 28. Contract rules called for rebidding if that deadline was missed, pushing the start of the winnowing process to April 2011.

Downselect will probably name three finalists, although no specific number has been stated or schedule given. There also is no timeframe for when a winner will be chosen. Politics is partly responsible. The downselect will be reviewed by a parliamentary committee, and the possible lobbying could extend the selection process beyond next April.

As this year’s deadline approached, the Eurofighter Typhoon was still making its final flights and the Saab Gripen, the last candidate, was not even in India. Held up by other tasks for the Swedish air force, the aircraft is not expected until late May.

Ministry officials were not commenting last week about a re-bid. But the Indian air force does not see it as a setback. Its emphasis is on being able to evaluate all the contenders.

“Testing is done in various envelopes, and as long as the associated requirements are met, that is [what is] important to us,” says a senior air force official. “We’re hoping all tests will be over by May.” If so, the assessment process will take another two months to complete.

While this official acknowledges that delay-driven re-bids might drive costs up as much as 7%, he says that is not a prime issue for air force headquarters. Its focus is on aircraft capabilities. Pricing comes into play beyond the air force’s level.

Earlier this year, Defense Minister A.K. Antony acknowledged that India’s acquisition process has been notoriously slow. The Defense Procurement Procedures Act for 2010 is supposed to remedy this problem.

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