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IAF to soon finalise multi-billion dollar aircraft deal

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French Dassault Rafale (Left) and European Eurofighter.

HINDON (PTI): The Indian Air Force is in the "last lap" of finalising its multi-billion dollar combat aircraft deal for which commercial bids of two shortlisted vendors would be opened by October 18.

"We are in the last lap of Medium-Multirole combat aircraft project. We should be able to open the commercial bids in ten days from now," Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne said in his address at the Air Force Day parade here.

The Defence Ministry on Friday has cleared the way for opening the commercial bids of Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon by approving their offset proposals.

After the bids are opened, the Defence Ministry will be able to determine the lowest bidder in the deal and decide who will ultimately get the contract described as the 'mother of all deals'.

Defence Ministry officials had said that all the spade work for the opening of bids was over and the bids will be opened in the presence of the two vendors.

Eurofighter and Rafale were shortlisted for the tender after four companies including American Lockheed Martin and Boeing, Russian MiG 35 and Swedish Saab Gripen were ousted from the race in April.

Speaking on other important IAF modernisation programmes, the IAF Chief said, "The C-130J Hercules and the Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) have been inducted and operationalised in good time."

Appreciating the capabilities of American-origin C-130J, Browne said, "Just last month our aircraft spearheaded the relief effort in Sikkim by landing at Bagdogra air base with disaster relief material and personnel within hours of being activated".

The IAF has already inducted five of the six C-130J ordered from the US under a USD one billion deal in 2007 and is looking to place orders for six more in the near future.It is also planning to deploy the additional six aircraft at the Charbatia air base in Orissa.

The IAF has also inducted all three AWACs aircraft procured from Israel and has started using them in exercises," he said.

Browne said the planned induction of the C-17 Heavylift aircraft along with medium and heavylift choppers will increase IAF's operational flexibility.

India has recently signed a USD 4.1 billion deal with the US for procuring 10 C-17 aircraft, which will be alongside the C-130Js at the IAF base here.

On the upgrade programmes involving the fighter and transport aircraft, Browne said, "Upgrades of Jaguar, Mirage 2000 and MiG 29 fighter aircraft along with An-32 transport aircraft are underway and will help in enhancing their operational relevance."

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