New Delhi: Indian defence officials are meeting on 29 June before handing out a contract for 126 war planes potentially worth up to $9 billion (Rs36,603 crore), officials said.
Indian defence ministry officials and industry sources said the choice appeared to have narrowed down to Russian-built MiG-35 and MiG-29, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 and Boeing’s F-18.
The contract -- described as the world’s biggest arms purchase in 15 years --will be the first time India’s huge defence establishment has bought fighters after evaluating rival bids through a global tender.
“Defence Minister A.K. Antony is heading the meeting of the decision-making Defence Acquisition Committee that will finalise the tender notice on 29 June,” a top ministry official told AFP.
“The choice of the manufacturer and all other details will be announced shortly,” said the official, who asked not to be named.
Indian air force sources also told AFP that the contract would be open-ended--giving India room to order 60 additional jets from the same vendor or vendors. India is the biggest arms purchaser among emerging nations.
Also in the race to replace a chunk of India’s ageing fleet of 700 MiG-21s are Eurofighter’s Typhoon, Saab’s Gripen and Dassault’s Rafale and Mirage--although price considerations have left these contenders at a disadvantage, defence officials and industry sources said.
But with US offerings in the running, the deal could also mark a shift away from dependence on Russian hardware. Ties between Moscow, which meets 75% of India’s military needs and India are now bumpy due to a delay in the delivery of a Russian aircraft carrier and acrimony over escalating Russian export costs, others said.