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India's choice of MMRCA to be known by month end

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NEW DELHI (PTI): India's choice of the Medium -Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) under its largest-ever military fighter deal for procuring 126 such planes at an estimated USD 11 billion is expected to be known by the "end of this month".

"We are looking to start the commercial negotiations by the end of this month," Air Chief Marshal P V Naik said at an event at Indian Women Press Corps (IWPC) Thursday.

Under the Defence Procurement procedure (DPP), the Ministry holds commercial negotiations with the company offering the lowest price for the product on offer and meeting the service requirements.

The IAF Chief said if the losing companies don't try to "put spokes in the wheel", the deal would be signed within his tenure, which ends in July this year.

The IAF had submitted its field evaluation trial report on July 30 last year and the Defence Ministry has been going through it to determine the aircraft meeting IAF's requirement.

Six aircraft including Russian MiG-35, American F-16 and F/A-18, Swedish Gripen, European Eurofighter and French Rafale are in the race for the multi-billion dollar contract.

Addressing a press conference last month, Naik had said "unless dissatisfied vendors put spokes", which may involve getting clearances from the Central Vigilance Commission or legal proceedings, the deal would be finalised by September.

The IAF is planning to induct these aircraft to augment its number and replace the Russian-origin MiG series aircraft, which are being phased out.

Under the procurement process, the Defence Ministry negotiates with the company offering the lowest price for the equipment required by respective services.

Asked by when the IAF was hoping to finalise the USD 2.1 billion Mirage upgrade deal, Naik said, "Hopefully in April."

IAF is looking to upgrade its 51 Mirage-200 aircraft in collaboration with French Dassault.

The upgrade plan has been stuck for quite some time due to several issues including on the price quoted by the French company.

Asked about the present squadron strength of the Indian Air Force, Naik said it was 34-35 squadrons at the moment and the force would attain its "full strength" by 2014-15.

The IAF has a sanctioned strength of 39.5 squadrons but the service has been operating much below its sanctioned levels for a long time.

It has also proposed to increase its force levels to 45 squadrons, and a proposal in this regard is pending with the Defence Ministry.

Asked if the budgetary allocation for the defence forces was enough to meet the modernisation requirements of the services, the IAF chief said, "It is more than adequate and there is no dearth of money."

On whether India should have anti-satellite capabilities, Naik said India was of the view that there should be no arming in the space.

"But we must have capability to knock out something which tries to damage our satellites up there," he added.

Asked about the biggest challenge in his tenure as the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, Naik said it was to deal with the issue of Unified (tri-service) Commands including the Andaman and Nicobar Command (CINCAN) as a number of things were required to "beef up" its requirements.

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MMRCA  India  Air Force  
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