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Combat aircraft trials to be rounded off by July 2010

Fighter aircraft participating in the MMRCA deal include, clockwise from top left, F/A-18 Hornet, Dassault Rafale, F-16 Fighting Falcon and Eurofighter Typhoon.

MUMBAI (PTI): Field trials by aircraft-makers, including Boeing Company and Dassault Aviation, for the 126-jet fighters to be acquired by the Indian Air Force are likely to be completed by July 2010, Union Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju has said.

“The trials are expected to get over some time in July next year as the testing has to be done across both the winter and summer seasons,” Raju told reporters on the sidelines of an industry conference here on Wednesday.

India plans to buy 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft as well as advanced helicopters and other defense equipment at an estimated cost of $ 10-billion to modernise its defense forces.

“The offset obligation for this (126-fighter jet) order is 50 per cent,” Raju said.

Under current rules, foreign companies which receive import orders in excess of Rs 300-crore must draw at least 30 per cent of that order from domestic suppliers or make a similar sized investment within India, in what is known as “an offset.”

According to its contract, Boeing has offered the F/A-18 fighter jet for the 126 multi-role combat aircraft deal, while Dassault has put up the Rafale fighter aircraft, the minister said.

Along with that, Lockheed Martin Corp's (LMT) F-16 Falcon, Russian Aircraft Corp's MiG-35, Saab AB's (SAAB.B-SK) JAS-39 Gripen, as well as the Eurofighter Typhoon produced by a consortium of European companies are also competing for the contract.

On the defence budget, Raju said that almost 30-40 per cent of the money earmarked for the current fiscal has already been spent.

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