India could decide war plane deal next month: report
India could decide by next month on a $12 billion fighter jet deal which France's Dassault and the Eurofighter consortium are vying for, the country's air force chief reportedly said on Friday.
Air Chief Marshal N. A. K. Browne said government officials were working on the shortlisted bids of Dassault and Eurofighter which were opened November 4.
"We are calculating very hard. There is a lot of work going on. I expect in another four weeks, we should be able to wrap it up," the Press Trust of India quoted Browne as telling reporters in the southern Indian city of Bangalore.
Jane's Defence Weekly, has described the contract as "the single biggest competition in the global defence aviation industry at the moment."
Officials say the name of the lowest bidder will be unveiled after experts assess the "life-cycle" maintenance costs of each plane and other contract details.
"By mid-December we should have very good sense of who has been selected," the Indian Air Force chief said without elaborating.
The contract is for the outright purchase of 18 combat aircraft by 2012 with another 108 to be built in India with options to acquire more.
India in April cut out US bidders Boeing and Lockheed Martin as well as dropping Sweden's Saab AB and the Russian makers of the MiG 35 from the race.
Such a large order attracted strong lobbying during visits to India last year by US President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
India, the biggest importer of military hardware among emerging nations, issued the request for proposals in 2007 and trials of aircraft from the six companies competing for the deal began a year later.
© 2011 AFP