Race begins next week for India warjet deal

By on Monday, August 10th, 2009

New Delhi: India will next week start fighter jet trials as the world’s six top aerospace giants vie for a 12-billion-dollar military contract, an official said Friday.

The trials for what will be the world’s most lucrative fighter contract in more than a decade will begin in Bangalore, India’s space research and aeronautical industry hub.

The assessment is due to continue for almost a year before New Delhi makes its choice from the six companies, the official said.

Boeing will be the first to take part when it displays its F-18 “Superhornet,” the official said, adding that a team of US-based aviation experts would be present in the southern city for the trials.

Lockheed Martin of the US and Europe’s EADS will be among the other five firms descending on Bangalore.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the precise date for the start of trials will depend on weather conditions.

India is on a spending spree to update its largely Soviet-era weapons system and is looking at buying 126 fighter jets.

After Boeing, Lockheed Martin is next in line to showcase its F-16 to the technology-hungry Indian airforce, the official said.

The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) will offer its Typhoon Eurofighter, while Russia is seeking to sell the MiG-35 and MiG-29.

French Dassault, which constructs the Mirage, has put forward its Rafale aircraft as a contender.

In April, India said it would not buy the Rafale because it was too expensive. But within weeks New Delhi without elaborating said the French firm had re-joined the race.

The line-up is completed by Gripen, part of Sweden’s Saab.

Industry sources have said Lockheed Martin and Boeing have emerged as front-runners.

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