Eurofighter carrot: a development stake if air force deal is signed

Eurofighter carrot: a development stake if air force deal is signed
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First Published: Thu, Apr 24 2008. 10 49 PM IST
Updated: Thu, Apr 24 2008. 10 49 PM IST
New Delhi/Bangalore: The maker of the Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft will offer India a stake in its future development if the firm succeeds in selling 126 fighter planes to the country for about $10 billion, a company official said in New Delhi on Thursday.
The Eurofighter Typhoon is made by Eurofighter GmbH, a consortium of European aerospace firms that include EADS, UK’s BAE Systems Plc., Italy’s Alenia Aeronautica SpA, and Spain’s EADS Casa. The company said it will submit the new offer with its bid on 28 April.
Analysts, however, said it was a desperate attempt by the company to secure the big-ticket deal. “It is all part of the sales promotion,” said S. Krishnaswamy, former chief of the Indian Air Force, or IAF.
“They have not been able to sell the aircraft to anybody except Saudi Arabia outside of Europe. They tried to, but they have not been able to. There would obviously be fierce competition.”
Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-16 Falcon, Boeing Co.’s F-18 Super Hornet, Russian Rosonboronexport’s MiG-35, French Dassault Aviation SA’s Rafale and Swedish Saab AB’s Gripen fighter are others in the race.
If India accepts Eurofighter’s offer, it would become the fifth partner in developing new technology for the jet, besides being able to work in its next phase of aircraft development, including fitting it with air-to-ground systems, weapons integration and self-defence systems amongst other things, said Bernhard Gerwert, chief executive officer of EADS Military Air Systems.
German ambassador to India Bernd Muetzelburg said the new offer only showed Europe’s intention to strengthen its ties with India. “I can’t go beyond what I did today. I don’t think any European country can arm-twist India, while others can do so,” he said, referring to lobbying at national levels for big-ticket defence deals.
Recently, the Indian Army cancelled an order for 197 light helicopters to Eurocopter, after rival US firm Textron Inc., maker of Bell helicopters, cried foul. The government floated a new tender this month for 384 helicopters, including 125 for IAF.
Meanwhile, Boeing announced it has sent its proposals to the US embassy in New Delhi that will deliver the bid, together with Lockheed Martin’s, to the Indian defence ministry.
“We believe F-18 is the most advanced aircraft in production today and a strong contender. Our plane is not at a development plan; it’s on a hot production line,” said Boeing spokesperson Brian Nelson by phone from Arlington, Virginia.
“A lot of it (sops) is contained inside it (the proposal), but we can’t talk about it right now. It’s going to be a highly competitive proposal.”
A Russian embassy spokesperson declined to comment while Gripen said it has an open mind on the offer. “We will be submitting our bids on Monday and we will be open on what is on offer to the IAF,” said Adrian Stockwell, communications director for India at Gripen International, by phone.
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First Published: Thu, Apr 24 2008. 10 49 PM IST