New Delhi: French firm Dassault Aviation, expelled from a $12 billion (Rs56,640 crore) Indian defence jets contract, is now likely to rejoin the race with five other global firms vying for the deal, officials said on Monday.
“Dassault Aviation has been cleared to put up its Rafale fighter jet for field trials,” a defence ministry official said, adding that the approval came last week from the government’s policymaking Defence Procurement Board.
The French company, one of six contenders for the mammoth contract, was declared out of the race on 16 April after the military said it failed to meet technical requirements.
“Dassault was dropped as it did not meet user requirements but the decision to re-induct it into the bidding was taken after the company offered the missing answers,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. However, “since a new government is now in place the final call is with the defence minister”.
A formal decision on Dassault’s participation was likely later this week, he added.
Industry sources have said that US-based Lockheed Martin, offering the F-16, and Boeing, with its F-18 “Superhornet”, are the front-runners in bidding for the 126-jet contract.
European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. has offered its Typhoon Eurofighter, while Russian manufacturers of the MiG-35 and MiG-29, as well as Sweden’s Saab, which makes the Gripen fighter, are also in the running.
“We will now have to see how the contenders perform in the extreme conditions in Rajasthan (a desert area) and in Leh (for high-altitude tests),” an official at state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) said.
The Indian military issued the request for proposals to six shortlisted global aviation giants in August 2007 and the companies submitted their bids last year.
The contract includes the outright purchase of 18 fighter jets by 2012 with another 108 to be built by HAL in India under a “transfer of technology agreement.” India also wants the option to buy 64 more jets.