Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cancellation Of Indian Midair Refuelers Concerns Industry

Aerospace Daily & Defense Report (PDF) - Jan 12, 2010

NEW DELHI — India’s cancellation of the contract for six A330 inflight refuelers on Dec. 30 is worrying international companies, which complain that transparency is decidedly lacking in Indian defense procurement.

Russia’s Ilyushin IL-78 was disqualified as having an incomplete bid, and price negotiations started with EADS last year. The finance ministry — after price negotiations were being finalized — objected to the higher price quoted by EADS, and the Russian bid was accepted. The Russians did not change their bid, instead including five extra engines and depot-level servicing under the original price.

India’s Defense Procurement Procedure permits the second lowest price (L2) to be considered if the lowest price (L1) is rejected.

Interestingly, in January 2009 the Russian bid was 1.05 billion euros (without the extra five engines and maintenance). This price had inflated 384 percent since 2004, when India purchased six IL-78s. The EADS bid was for 1.71 billion euros, and was under negotiation. This included the extra engines and 30 years of depot-level servicing.

The Indian air force, looking for newer technology, is said to be livid about the decision. Apparently, the air force was not happy with the IL-78s, one official said. The Indian system is skewed, he added.

According to the official, the A330 is different and superior to the IL-78 in many ways. The Russian aircraft’s extra fuel tanks have to be fitted in the cargo hold, which results in lesser dispensation of fuel. The A330’s cruising speed is higher and it has commonality with civil aircraft that makes its maintenance less cumbersome. The A330 also has a range close to 15,000 kilometers (9,320 miles) and versus the IL-78 with around 9,000 kilometers.

The IL-78 will need to land in the Middle East to refuel if it is heading toward the west, whereas the EADS design can fly directly. It also can simultaneously carry 292 passengers while fueling aircraft, an official said.
- Neelam Mathews (mathews.neelam@gmail.com)

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