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India's combat aircraft deal likely in 5-6 weeks: Naik

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French Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon. A Brahmand photo.

NEW DELHI (PTI): India’s Air Chief Marshal P V Naik has said the likely winner of the multi-billion dollar combat aircraft deal would be known in the "next five to six" weeks.

"The next step is to call vendors and open up the commercial bids. I think in the next five to six weeks, I expect that the L1 (lowest bidder) would be decided," he said on Tuesday.

As per the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), the lowest bidder in the multi vendor tenders is considered to be the winner of the deals.

European consortium Eurofighter Typhoon and the French Dassault Rafale are the two companies in race for supplying 126 Medium-Multirole Combat Aircraft (M-MRCA) to the Indian Air Force.

The two companies were shortlisted after a five-year long competition between six companies including the American Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Russian MiG 35 and Swedish Saab Gripen.

The IAF chief said that major procedures such as the completion of the Technical Offsets Evaluation Committee report have been finalised.

Commenting on the Mirage 2000 aircraft upgrade programme, Naik said the deal worth over Rs 10,900 crore would be signed soon under which 51 aircraft would be upgraded.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had recently cleared the proposal for upgrading 51 aircraft to the Mirage 2000-5 standards in collaboration with France.

On the results for procuring heavy-lift and attack helicopters, the IAF chief said the trials have been completed by the force and the trial report would be submitted to the Defence Ministry soon.

On the controversy surrounding the procurement of the basic trainer aircraft, the IAF chief said, "I am not aware of any Korean controversy. They have written a letter that they should be given a chance. Correct procedure has been followed and Swiss firm Pilatus has been declared as lowest bidder.

"There is no controversy as far as I am concerned. Now the commercial negotiations will start."

On the highest point in his career, Naik, who is retiring on July 31, said it came when he visited the US for the Red Flag exercises as the Vice Chief of Air Force where the IAF came in for lot of praise for its efficiency and professionalism.

"The conquering of the Mount Everest by three women officers was the highest point as Chief of Air Staff," he said.

Asked why the IAF was not taking part in multilateral Red Flag exercises held in the US, he said, "Taking part in such exercises costs money and that is why we have decided that we will take part only once in five years in such exercises. So, the next exercise may take place in 2013."

On queries about the possibility of Indian armed forces to carry out Abottabad like operations, he said, "Yes, we do have the capability to carry out a similar operation."

To a query on the proposed Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA) being developed by the DRDO, the IAF chief said, "At present, I have been so busy with the LCA that I have had no time to think about MCA."

"Its development has already started on drawing board. Once developed, it will be a twin engine aircraft. I think it will be an improvement on the LCA," he said.

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India  IAF  MMRCA  
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