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India ready to offer largest combat jet contract in its history

RIA Novosti

29/06/2007 17:44 NEW DELHI, June 29 (RIA Novosti) - India has completed the preparation for its largest-ever international defense tender to acquire 126 multi-role combat aircraft, estimated at $7 billion, the Defense Ministry said Friday.

A meeting of the Defense Acquisition Committee (DAC), headed by Defense Minister A.K Antony, passed Friday the criteria for the selection of the best proposal submitted by foreign bidders.

"Considering the importance and the amount of the future deal, the committee has finalized the criteria for the selection of a multi-role fighter among the best aircraft models offered by American, Russian and European companies," the ministry said in a statement.

According to the tender's criteria, the proposed aircraft must be able to stay in service for 40 years, with contractors providing maintenance and parts supply services.

The tender also stipulates that the supplier of the aircraft will transfer to India the license and technologies for production of the bulk of the fighters in the country.

The tender will consist of three stages, including flight tests and evaluation of commercial proposals.

Among the aircraft in the competition for the tender are the Russian Mig-35, the French Dassault Rafale, the Swedish Gripen, the Eurofighter Typhoon, and a number of U.S. types produced by Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

India desperately needs to upgrade its fighter fleet, which mainly consists of obsolete Russian models, including the MiG-21 Fishbed and MiG-23 Flogger designs.

Although India has designed and flown its own modern fighter, the Tejas, its entry into service has been delayed for at least another four years, according to Indian officials.

Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, who previously served as defense minister, said in January that Moscow had a good chance of winning the Indian fighter tender by offering its MiG-35 aircraft.

"We are ready to participate in the tender and win it," Ivanov said at the time.

Russia's MiG-35, an export version of the MiG-29M OVT (Fulcrum F) is a highly maneuverable air superiority fighter, which won high acclaim during the recent Le Bourget air show in France.

The fighter is powered by RD-33 OVT thrust vectoring control engines. The RD-33 OVT engines provide superior maneuverability and enhance the fighter's performance in close air-to-air engagements.

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