Union Defence Minister A K Antony on Monday said it was not possible to set a time frame for signing the much-awaited deal for the Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) with French company Dassault Aviation.
The contract, said to be worth nearly Rs 1 lakh crore, is still at the negotiation stage, a year-and-a-half after the French firm emerged as the lowest bidder in the tender which was floated in August 2007.
“Given the complexity of the proposal, no definite time frame can be fixed at this stage (for signing the deal),” Antony said in a written reply in Parliament.
“The proposal for procurement of the 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft is currently at the stage of commercial discussions with the L1 vendor, Dassault Aviation and hence the terms and conditions for purchase including the delivery schedule are yet to be finalised,” he said.
However, the Defence Minister pointed out that the Request for Proposal–defence parlance for a commercial tender – stipulated that the delivery of the 18 flyaway aircraft should take place between the third and fourth years after the signing of the contract. The manufacturing of the remaining 108 fighters under licence from Dassault will take place here from the 4th to the 11th year after the signing of the contract.
Dassault has offered its Rafale combat planes to India under the Request for Proposal and it had beaten the European consortium EADS Cassidian, which had offered its Eurofighter Typhoon plane, in the last stage of the tendering process in January 2012. The two firms had been down-selected by the Indian Air Force after intense flight and weapons trials in which the US aircraft – Lockheed Martin’s F-16 and Boeing’s F/A-18 – Russian United Aircraft Corporation’s MiG-35 and Swedish Saab’s Gripen were eliminated from the competition in April 2011.
Meanwhile, the Army is planning to procure 100 self-propelled artillery howitzers and three Indian vendors, including two private companies, have been selected for trial of their equipment, A K Antony told the Lok Sabha on Monday.
In a written reply to the lower house of Parliament, the Defence Ministry also said the recent amendment to Defence Procurement Procedure-2011 aims at giving higher preference to indigenous capacity in the defence sector.