India expects to wrap up the $11 billion Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft [MMRCA] deal by mid-December, Air Force Chief Air Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne said Friday.

“We are calculating hard . . . by mid-December we should have very good sense of who has been selected,” Browne says.

The commercial bids of the two contenders—the Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon—were opened Nov 4. The lowest bid in the tender may become the winner. However, the associated costs in terms of spares and support over two years, as well as for maintaining the aircraft over a lifetime of 6,000 hr. (or 40 years), also will be considered.

The government is in the process of determining the lifecycle cost of the two aircraft to determine the lowest bidder, which will be offered the contract. The Indian government has to decide the final winner by year-end or the bids will expire.

Eurofighter and Rafale were short-listed for the tender after offerings from Lockheed Martin F-35 and Boeing F/A-18E/F, as well as the Russian MiG-35 and Swedish Saab Gripen, were cut in April from the competition to supply 126 fighter jets to the Indian air force.

The tender for buying the fighter jets was issued in August 2007. There is speculation that due to this long tendering process and the Indian rupee weakening against the U.S. dollar, the cost of the project could almost double to about $20 billion by the time the actual deliveries begin.

The air force wants toadd these jets to its fleet by 2015, as it will be phasing out its Soviet-era MiG series aircraft. The first 18 jets will be supplied by the winning bidder from its own facilities, while the rest will be manufactured by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. in India.

However, Browne says, “I can’t tell anything [on the cost escalation] until the time we finish that work, as there are a lot of complicated calculations and figures that need to be checked.”

According to defense ministry officials, there has been a delay in finalizing the deal due to the 50% offset clause imposed by the Indian government, which requires the contract winner to re-invest half of the deal’s value into the Indian defense industry.

The defense ministry approved the offset proposals of the two short-listed vendors early last month.