Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Misplaced Document Strains Indian MMRCA Program

Aerospace Daily & Defense Report Jan 05 , 2011 , p. 12
Neelam Mathews

NEW DELHI — A file related to the procurement of India’s Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) found on a roadside near the defense ministry has bidders worried.

The file is related to the program’s offsets clause, which is the final point of evaluation before the downselect is made. The contenders in the program to build 126 aircraft are Lockheed Martin’s F-16, Boeing’s F/A-18, Dassault’s Rafale, Saab’s Gripen, the MiG-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon.

“An inquiry is on,” Defense Minister A.K. Antony says. “As far as the MMRCA is concerned, I am clear that every officer has to be careful at every stage.”

A senior government official says the discovery of the misplaced file could pull out skeletons from the closet, though he is unsure if it could lead to a rebid. “At the moment, it is too early to say,” he says. “These things happen,” an Indian aerospace supplier says. However, the incident confirms what many international defense companies have suspected about India’s dismal record of transparency and corruption.

“Most inquiries never see the light of day [here],” one vendor says. “The issue is now how the government will move forward on this, given that the onerous process of technical evaluation is complete and the transfer-of-technology evaluation is on.”

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