Saturday, October 30, 2010

Airbus Military mulls plan to bag multi-billion dollar India deal

MADRID: As India seeks to boost its strategic reach by inducting more mid-air refuellers, European defence major EADS has announced that it would aggressively bid for the multi-billion reopened contract by offering latest technology.

India is seeking to buy six more air-to-air refueller to augment its fleet of six Russian IL-78 tankers and the European consortium Airbus Military said it would offer its new state-of-the-art Multi-role Transport Tanker aircraft A330 MRTT "at competitive prices."

The European tanker would come with Aerial Refueling Boom System (ARBS), a technology which only the Americans have so far. The ARBS system enables refueling even in adverse weather and day or night.

It uses the stereoscopic vision and laser based infrared lighting system -- a distinct advantage for India as it is set to acquire 126 advanced fighters. "The Russian refuellers with IAF don't have this capability," Airbus officials said.

"We are offering the new A330 MRTT as it provides the best value for money," said Peter Scoffham, Vice President, Defence Capability Marketing for Airbus Military.

"No other aircraft comes close to A300 MRTT as aircrafts designed in 1970's cannot be compared with those being built now," Scoffham told PTI at the Airbus Military facility in Getafe, a metropolitan area in southern zone of Spanish city of Madrid.

"The new technology on offer to India bridges the gap between strategic and tactical tanker," he said.

India has so far relied on the Russian technology in acquiring its first air tankers, but the defence planners are now insisting that the IAF be armed with the most updated technology.

India has issued Fresh Request for Proposals (RFP) for six in-flight refuelling aircraft, reviving the tender worth around Rs 6,000 crore that was cancelled in January.

Besides the Airbus, the American Boeing and Russians are in the contention for one of the biggest military tenders to be floated by India.

Even as Scoffham refused to give details of the new RFP, he said "India has emerged as one of the largest defence market in the world", and like all other major defence industries, "Airbus Military is looking to India to sell its products which are the best in its categories".

A300 MRTT has comprehensive AAR system, including both Hose and Drogue and the ARBS.

Following its last-minute failure to ink the lucrative deal earlier this year, Airbus Military, a business unit of Airbus responsible for all military transport aircraft, said the civil and military certification for the A330 MRTT strengthens its case.

Airbus Military, which is fighting to shake off negative publicity from the delayed hulking gray A400M turboprop, has positioned the A300 MRTT as "bridging the gap between strategic and tactical" aircraft.

European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), had almost bagged the contract earlier, but the finance ministry had reservations labelling the contract as too.

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