India’s defense minister has ordered a departmental inquiry into French firm ’s win of the 126-fighter Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) contract, after a lawmaker raised the possibility of “manipulation” in the selection process.
The lawmaker, M.V. Mysura Reddy, a member of the Parliament Standing Committee on Defense, sent a letter to Defense Minister A.K. Antony Feb. 27 noting that “the Ministry of Defense, under your able leadership, must ensure that there has been no manipulation in the evaluation process to arrive at the L1 from among the two MMRCA competitors.” L1 refers to the lowest bidder.
The defense ministry in January announced that Dassault Aviation’s twin-enginehad bested the for the $12 billion program.
Two days later, the defense minister wrote back to Reddy: “I have asked the ministry to examine all the points raised by you.”
Stressing that “I cannot ignore any complaint,” Antony has said he “will cancel any contracts if corruption charges are proved.”
The Rafale emerged as the lowest bidder in the deal to supply fighter jets to the. The decision was based on extensive trials and complex calculations, including unit cost, life-cycle cost and transfer of technology. As per the calculations, L1 would be evaluated as the cheapest over the aircraft’s 30-year life cycle.
Defense officials say the allegations have not completely halted the deal, but could delay the process by a few more months. The ministry of defense expects to sign the contract in the next financial year, which begins April 1. The Contract Negotiations Committee is now discussing pricing with Dassault.
“The decision to purchase Rafale is final and we are in the stage of price negotiations,” Junior Defense Minister M.M. Pallam Raju said recently.
India plans to introduce the first lot of jets starting in 2016, Antony told Parliament March 21. The first squadron will comprise 18 Rafales that will be purchased in a fly-away condition from the French manufacturer. The remaining aircraft will be progressively manufactured in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, with the last of them inducted before the end of 2023.