The Indian Air Force (IAF) is reportedly close to finalising the long-awaited medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) deal with Dassault Aviation.
IAF chief air chief marshal Arup Raha was quoted by Hindustan Times as saying that the contract is imminent as the air force cannot afford further delays and the signing is ‘going to happen soon.’
Raha’s comments come amid reports that losing bidder Eurofighter is attempting to re-enter the race to sell its Typhoon fighters to IAF with a revised proposal.
Commenting on Eurofighter’s possible re-entry, Raha said: "It will not be appropriate to make any changes in the process.
"The current government has set the pace of work and things are moving fast enough on the fighter deal."
A senior Indian defence ministry official said the Indian defence procurement rules do not allow for re-opening of the competition at this stage to Eurofighter, and noted that the consortium can make a comeback only if India agrees to scrap the deal and start afresh.
"Rafale has run through the finish line. It’s too late in the day to parachute into the race. The door is closed," the unnamed official said.
In January 2012, the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) selected Dassault’s Rafale fighter jet for the contract, rejecting its rival fighter, the Eurofighter Typhoon.
Under the $22bn contract, Dassault will supply 126 Rafales, with the first 18 jets to be manufactured in France from the second quarter of 2015 onwards, while the remaining 108 fighters will be built in India following a technology transfer to Hindustan Aeronautics.
The contract also includes the option for ordering an additional 63 aircraft at a re-negotiated price.
However, the deal could not be finalised in wake of allegations of irregularities in the process that led to the choice of the fighters, as reported by India Blooms News Service.
The new MMRCA aircraft will be the mainstay of the IAF fighter aircraft fleet for the next 40 years and will replace its existing fleet of MiG variants.
Image: A French Air Force Rafale F1 fighter in flight. Photo: courtesy of Joey Quan.