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IAF picks refueller

The Airbus Military A330 MRTT mid-air refueller during a demonstration

New Delhi, Jan. 8: The Indian Air Force has chosen Airbus Military A330 MRTT as its mid-air refueller, choosing the European consortium over its Russian competitor.

The contract, estimated to be worth about Rs 8,500 crore, is yet to be approved by the cabinet committee on security.

The choice of the Airbus Military tanker is a setback for Russia, India’s largest defence supplier. The current fleet of mid-air refuellers in the air force comprises six Russian-origin IL 78 aircraft.

Airbus Military in a statement said its A330 MRTT refuelled multiple types of Indian Air Force combat aircraft and operated from the high-altitude Leh airfield during trials.

The IAF, which had selected the A330 MRTT once earlier but had its decision vetoed by the finance ministry that found it too costly, found the aircraft to be cheaper than its Russian competitor IL 78 Midas.

The IAF has reposed its faith in the A330 MRTT once again. The signing of the contract would be preceded by negotiations expected to last up to six months.

“We are grateful for the confidence shown in our company by the government of India and the Indian Air Force,” Airbus Military CEO Domingo Urena Raso said. India will be the fifth country to operate the aircraft if the contract is signed.

The A330 MRTT can also be used as a troop-transporter and accommodate about 130 stretchers for casualty evacuation.