Eurofighter hat in air force ring

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By SUJAN DUTTA in Delhi
  • Published 28.09.04
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A Eurofighter Typhoon

New Delhi, Sept. 28: Buoyed by the contract to supply Advanced Jet Trainers to the Indian Air Force, a team from a British military equipment export organisation that is in New Delhi is offering to sell the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The Eurofighter Typhoon is a four-nation ? the UK, Italy, Germany and Spain ? effort and still in the development stage but the offer signals that global companies are trying to prise open the race to bag a contract that could be in the region of Rs 30,000 crore to replace India?s ageing and casualty-ridden MiG-21 fighters.

The team led by the head of the Defence Export Service Organisation, Alan Garwood, met officials in the ministry of defence here today. It is scheduled to meet the chief of air staff, Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy, tomorrow.

It is but expected that with signals going out that the race to bag the contract for about 120 fighters for the IAF could be open, other companies will throw their hats into the ring.

The US? Lockheed Martin, the Russian MiG Corporation and the Swedes would also be interested. Lockheed Martin?s F-15K fighter is understood to be competing with the Eurofighter for a contract from South Korea.

The Indian Air Force is looking to replace about six squadrons of its MiG-21 air defence fighter aircraft. The French Dassault Aviation?s Mirage 2000-V is said to be the frontrunner in the race. The contract for an estimated 120 aircraft to be delivered ? part off-the-shelf and mostly through co-production with the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited ? over a five- to seven-year period could run into many thousands of crores.

The Mirage 2000-V, if it is negotiated, could be in the region of $30 million each. The IAF is familiar with the Mirage 2000 ? of which it has two squadrons (about 40 aircraft) and which have been operationally proven. But the British team is understood to be making the point that the Eurofighter Typhoon will have a ?generational difference? with the Mirage. The Mirage 2000 was first inducted into the IAF in 1985.

The development of the Eurofighter Typhoon has been dogged by political problems. But it is claimed that the first of 620 Eurofighters have been delivered to air forces of the partner nations for about $33 million each.

Sources said they were negotiating a sale of eight Eurofighters to Singapore and were trying to ensure that Greece?s decision to buy about 60 Eurofighters does not change with its change in government.

Indian defence ministry officials say that purchases of military equipment as a matter of policy now will seek to ensure that they are not confronted with a monopoly situation.