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India selects Airbus A330 mid-air refuellers for IAF

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The A330 Multi-role Transport Tanker aircraft. An Airbus Military photo

MADRID/NEW DELHI (BNS): India has selected European aviation major Airbus Military as the preferred bidder to supply its A330 multi role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft to the Indian Air Force (IAF).

"The decision follows a lengthy and thorough selection process including the completion of extensive flight demonstrations in India by the A330 MRTT during which the aircraft refuelled multiple types of IAF fighters and operated from the high-altitude IAF base at Leh," Airbus Military announced on Monday.

Detailed negotiations will now begin which it is expected will lead to the award of a final production contract for an envisaged six aircraft in 2013, the company said.

India, after scrapping an earlier bid in January 2010, had issued a fresh request for proposal (RFP) in September that year to procure six air-to-air refuellers to boost its strategic reach by augmenting the IAF's existing fleet of six Russian IL-78 tankers.

The A330 MRTT was competiting against Russia's Ilyushin-78 for the contract estimated to be worth around Rs 8,000 crore.

The tender for procuring the mid-air refuellers was re-issued in September 2010 after the Finance Ministry rejected IAF's selection of Airbus A330 MRTT over the Russian IL-78 for being too expensive which compelled the IAF to start the contract process once again.

Besides Airbus, America's Boeing was in contention for one of the biggest military tenders floated by India, but the US firm later withdrew from it, leaving only the European firm to vie for the deal along with the Russian tankers.

According Airbus, the European tanker would come with Aerial Refueling Boom System (ARBS) - a technology which only the Americans have so far. The ARBS system enables refueling even in adverse weather conditions and day or night.

The A300 MRTT uses the stereoscopic vision and laser based-infrared lighting system -- a distinct advantage for India which is set to acquire 126 new advanced fighters (MMRCAs).

IAF is procuring the new mid-air refuellers to extend the flying range of its fighter aircraft, including the frontline Su-30MKI and Mirage 2000 jets.

India's selection of the A330 MRTT makes it the fifth nation to commit to the type following Australia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom which have ordered a total of 28 aircraft, Airbus Military said.


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