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Eurofighter frontrunner for MMRCA deal: BAE official


LONDON (PTI): Eurofighter Typhoon is the front-runner in the $11 billion Indian Air Force contract for Medium Multi-Role Combat Airacraft (MMRCA) deal, a senior official of the BAE Systems has said indicating that if the contract goes through, a part of fighter manufacturing would be off loaded to India.

"The negotiation for crucial commercial terms will begin next month," Michael Christie, Senior Vice President, BAE Systems India told a group of visiting journalists at BAE Systems' production centre at Warton, Lancashire, in UK Thursday.

India had short-listed French Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets for the project to acquire 126 fighters, while rejecting American Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-16, Sweden's Gripen and Russian MiG-35 fighters.

Dassault and Eurofighter have been asked by the Ministry of Defence to extend the offer validity.

"If Typhoon is chosen, the order for the contract will be firmed up in the first quarter of next year and "delivery of aircraft will begin in 2015," Christie indicated.

According to Christie, Typhoon is a generation ahead of Chinese aircraft J-10 Thunder.

"China also unveiled a proto-type of J20. But typhoon is one of the most advanced aircraft, The missile capability of the aircraft and radar capability are of a different level," he said.

The warplane is built by a four-nation European consortium – Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain – with Britain and Germany having 33 per cent stake each.

Answering a question on indigenisation of the Hawk jet trainer, Christie said, "the indigenisation programme is very successful".

India had contracted BAE Systems to receive 66 Hawks - 26 built in the UK and 42 under licence by HAL in Bengaluru under a 1 billion pound agreement and the contract was widened by New Delhi last year to purchase 57 more Hawks under licence production.

Today, the Indian Tricolour is flying proudly outside the BAE Warton production centre, along with the British flag, thanks to the massive Indian order, which is keeping the company going.

Christie said that India is keen to have 70 per cent of the Typhoon to be produced in India and the 30 per cent in the UK.

BAE is keen to make India a partner of the Consortium, Christie said.

Asked whether India could export Hawk, Christie said, the existing agreement does not allow it.

"We are in discussion to find how we can do that".

Christie said, "Typhoon has taken us to the next generation of aircraft".

"If India were to finalise the agreement for Typhoon, it will be produced in Bengaluru. They will have to create new space for it in Bengaluru", he added.

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