Approval to go ahead with a formal requests for proposals (RfP) for 126 medium mufti-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) to replace Indian Air Force (IAF) MiG-21s, Jaguars, and MiG-27’s was granted by India’s Defence Acquisition Council on June 29, 2007. The RfP, which included options on a further 64 aircraft was issued on August 28, 2007 to six potential vendors. Candidates were the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafael, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16N, RAC MiG-35, and Saab JAS 39 Gripen. The deadline for responses was set as March 3, 2008, but this was later extended after some bidders said that they did not have sufficient time to respond to the request and final bids were submitted on April 28, 2008.
After technical evaluation of the bids, in-country field trials of the six MMRCA contenders started in August 2009 and continued into 2010. After these extensive evaluations had been completed India’s Ministry of Defence announced on April 27, 2011 that it had short listed the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon and eliminated all other contenders for the requirement.
The commercial bids from the two competitors were opened on November 4, 2011, following which there was a period of evaluation of both offers. This evaluation assessed various parameters that would affect the final selection, not only including the lowest bid, but also taking into account life-cycle costs and potential off-set agreements.
Off-set agreements were given particular emphasis in the MMRCA competition as it is a normal requirement in Indian defence deals with foreign contractors to ask for a 30% offset. In this case, however, a 50% offset was stipulated. Approval of the evaluation report on the offset proposals from both finalists was granted on October 7, 2011 by the Defence Acquisition Council.
Final selection of the Rafale was made on January 31.2012 and on February 17, 2012 the Defence Minister confirmed that the Contract Negotiations Committee has now commenced negotiations to finalize the deal.
There is likely to be six month of further contract negotiations after which eight stages of scrutiny will have to be passed before the deal can be signed. This will include approvals by the Defence Ministry and Defence Finance followed by examinations by the independent monitors of the Central Vigilance Commission, National Security Council Secretariat, Finance Ministry and the Cabinet committee for Security. It is believed that final contract can be signed within nine months.
It should be noted that this is a long and ponderous process. It should also be noted that the Indians’ are actually going to get airplanes within the foreseeable future. More then the Canadian government can say. It’s true that the F-35 was not included in the selection process; it’s also true that aircraft manufacturers (“coff coff – Eurofighter) are still lining up offering better prices in an attempt to steal the deal from Dassault. Manufacturers actually have an incentive to offer their best prices and they do. A long and ponderous process, but one the Canadian government might learn from.