French Rafale Fighter Jet Out Of Race for Biggest IAF Deal

The French Rafale fighter has been knocked out of the race for the'mother of all defence deals', the Rs 42,000 crore (approx. 9 billioneuros—Ed) project to acquire 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) for IAF, leaving five jets in the fray now.Defence ministry (MoD) sources on Thursday said Rafale had “fallenshort” on “several counts” listed in the GSQRs (general staff qualitative requirements) drawn up by IAF. "It did not pass muster in the technical evaluation of the bids submitted by the six contenders," said a source.
The move is sure to rile France, which like other countries in thecontention for what will be the largest global defence contract hadmounted a high-voltage campaign for the $10.4 billion MMRCA contract."We have no confirmation from the Indian MoD... We are extremelysurprised since there was no technical lacuna in our bid," said aFrench official.
Incidentally, India and France arealso yet to settle their bitter differences for the upgrade of the 51Mirage-2000s in IAF's combat fleet despite being locked in negotiationsfor over two years now. Sources said French fighter manufacturerDassault Aviation wants well over Rs 12,000 crore for the project, butIndia is not prepared to pay a penny over Rs 10,000 crore.
As for the MMRCA battle, India will now invite only American F/A-18 Super Hornet (Boeing) and F-16 Falcon (Lockheed Martin), Russian MiG-35 (United Aircraft Corporation), Swedish Gripen (Saab) and Eurofighter Typhoon (consortium of British, German, Spanish and Italian companies) to take part in the field trials which are likely to begin from July-August.
"IAF HQ is drawing up the modalities for the field trials to beginin around three months," said the source. There will be at least twosets of trials conducted in summer and winter, with the five jets beingflown in the snow-capped peaks of Leh, the scorching Rajasthan deserts(probably Jaisalmer) and the humid conditions of south India (probablyBangalore).

The race, of course, is actually quite a marathon. The commercialbids will only be opened, examined and compared after a shortlist ismade of two to three top contenders following the extensive fieldtrials and staff evaluation.
With the final negotiations to begin thereafter, the entire processis expected to take a minimum of two years before the contract isactually inked. IAF hopes to induct the first lot of the new fighters —18 jets will be bought off-the-shelf, while the rest will bemanufactured in India under transfer of technology — by 2012-2013.
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