NEW DELHI — France and Germany are making a last-ditch effort to boost their companies’ chances to win the $11 billion Medium-Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) program for the , as authorities are set to open the bids of the two downselected firms vying for the 126-aircraft order.
French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet pitched’s during his visit to New Delhi last week, and the topped the agenda during German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s discussion with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on May 31. German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizere also met Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony on May 31.
The German companies are part of, which is part of the consortium along with and Alenia Aeronautica.
Longuet and Merkel expressed full confidence in the Indian procedures and expressed satisfaction about the transparency in the selection process. Both also took jibes at the other.
“We are one single speaking country, and we have enjoyed a relationship since 1953,” Longuet says. “Dealing with one country you know well, I imagine, is better than dealing with four countries. It is just simpler.” He was referring to the rival Eurofighter consortium.
Merkel also tried to hard sell the Typhoon, claiming that it was the best plane being offered. “With the Eurofighter, we have made good proposals and want to intensify our relationship with India,” Merkel says. “The Eurofighter is the best product on offer. We will not exert any influence on the procurement process and we shall wait and see.”
German Ambassador to New Delhi Thomas Matussek also says, “EADS’s Typhoon represents the most advanced and cost-efficient machines.” EADS will be open to sharing technology besides developing second- and third-generation aircraft, he adds.
EADS has even invited India to become a partner for the Typhoon program if the aircraft wins the contract. Eurofighter’s offer to establish a production line in India could give it an edge.
The other contender, Rafale, has the advantage of being logistically and operationally similar to the Mirage 2000. The air force has already been equipped with similar fighters, and its inclusion would require fewer changes in the existing infrastructure of the force.
Ajay Lele, a former air force wing commander and currently research fellow at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, says, “The Indian armed forces might have done calculations based on the most advanced technology. One cannot shy away from the fact that India is facing serious threats from its neighbors and it needs the latest technology to safeguard its boundaries. India is in a position to look [at] issues on face value and not get influenced by international pushes and pulls. So the deal will go in favor of the company that provides the best technology at the best available price.”
Indian authorities are expected to open bids from Dassault and Eurofighter in June, according to a defense ministry official. Under the order, the first 18 jets will be bought in “fly-away” condition and the remainder will be produced with a licensed vendor in India.
According to persons close to the project, the government has initiated negotiations with the two companies on their plans to fulfill offset commitments. India has fixed offset obligations for the MMRCA at 50% to ensure that half of the deal’s worth is reinvested in India to energize its defense industry.
Under current rules, foreign companies that receive import orders in excess of three billion rupees ($67 million) must draw at least 30% of that order from Indian suppliers or make a similar-sized investment within the country.