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Combat aircraft deal not delayed: IAF

Combat aircraft deal not delayed: IAF

New Delhi: The IAF has said there would be no delay in finalising the $11-billion 126 combat aircraft deal even though the two-year deadline for the bids submitted by six global aerospace majors ended last week.

“As far as the process (finalising the tenders) is concerned, it is well on track as was visualised," IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik said on the sidelines of a function to unveil a portrait of Marshal of Air Force Arjan Singh at the Akash Mess on Monday.

Naik said the process of evaluating the six contenders for the mother of all deals would take time and it was not an easy task.

“I am very happy and proud of our people, who have done this (evaluation) on time. They will finish off (the flight and weapons trials) by end of May. It will be a delay of about five or 10 days. Our evaluation, testing is on schedule," he said, when asked if the deadline extension would delay the procurement process.

For the tenders floated in August 2007, US majors Lockheed Martin and Boeing, Russian RAC MiG, French D’Assault, Swedish SAAB and European consortium EADS had submitted their bids.

The companies have offered their F-16IN, F/A-18, MiG-35, Rafale, Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft as the furture medium multirole combat aircraft for the IAF.

While the IAF has completed the technical evaluation of the bids submitted by the companies in early 2008, the commercial bids were yet to be opened.

The IAF began the flight and weapons evaluation of the six aircraft last year and is set to complete the trials by end of this month.

However, the deadline for the commercial bids ended last week following which the defence ministry asked the companies to submit fresh bids or extend the deadline for their existing bids.

When asked about the deadline extension, Naik said, “Deadline expiry is a routine thing, which happens in quite a few cases. The deadline is extended (in such cases)."

Meanwhile, senior IAF officials said they had set a timeline for three years since the tenders were issued to complete the process of evaluation of all the six aircraft in the fray.

“This three-year deadline we will be able to meet," they said.

To a query on the American Defence Security Cooperation Agency notifying the Congress on the possible sale of 10 Boeing C-17 transport aircraft to India through the Foreign Military Sales route, Naik said the IAF expects the US to send a Letter of Acceptance soon.

“They will send us a letter of LOA from their side and the progress will continue. We expect it shortly," he said.

Earlier, Naik unveiled the portrait of Arjan Singh in the lobby of Akash Mess in the presence of the Marshal of the Air Force, his family members and artist Sanjay Bhattacharya, who had made the portrait.

“It is a very special privilege. Marshal is the only five-star officer amongst all the three services in the country at present. He is an icon as far as the IAF is concerned. His exploits are very well known. So it is a privilege for us to have a picture of his in the Akash mess, which is a special Air Force mess," Naik said.

Arjan Singh said the portrait was a recognition of the IAF’s eight-decade contribution to the nation.

“I think it is not about the Marshal, but recognition of the Air Force’s eight-decade work. The Air Force has always helped the country in not only fighting the enemy but also in humanitarian work. I am quite sure that the IAF is really well-organised, well-trained, and will continue to serve the country," he said.

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