Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Exclusive! Opinion - MRTT - Time to be cleared?

Neelam Mathews
Dec 4, 2012
Even as Airbus Military formally delivered the fifth and final A330 MRTT multi-role tanker transport ordered by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) which it has designated the KC-30A, a controversy might just be brewing in India over ASQRs of the tanker bids for which commercial bids have opened and technical evaluation completed. 
At the risk of going overboard, we here at Aerospace Diary, feel it is time national interests come first and if any OEM has been cleared by a technical evaluation committee chosen by the government, we have to trust them and stop holding back projects in a bid to look transparent, everytime a company losing a bid, cries foul.
Our squeaky clean defense minister now needs to hold the hand of his chosen lieutenants and show the world India means business on its own but fair, terms.
We are hearing there seems to be some confusion on the SQRs. Para 5.7, according to some people we spoke to, said the tankers need to carry paratroopers and are required to paradrop. However, an MoD official clarifies that “paradrop” is not part of the bid and the aircraft needs to carry 200 passengers or/ 125 paratroopers with associated equipment. This was cleared at a pre-bid meeting in September the official informs us. Both IL and Airbus are compliant with this requirement.
Another hazy part seems to be whether both the aircraft can carry two types of fuel simultaneously. Both the contenders can do this, though the IL, we believe, did not demonstrate this capability, will do so at time of delivery. Which is permissible.
While Airbus Military A330 MRTT refers to itself  in its press releases as “the only new generation strategic tanker/transport aircraft flying and available today,” IL-76, with 4-engines, not two, feels it is on stronger ground during a war situation. But then, do we want to refute the SQRs, is the issue? Though some say this could become a white elephant for India. Airbus will have their own logic, one suspects. Besides, if the users of the equipment do not know the specs, we may as well close shop.
The proof is in the pudding. With the new variant of  IL-78 not having flown as yet, a civilian aircraft (Volga Dnepr, a charter airline with the PS-90 engine) was brought for the trials. Though it was not taken to Leh and no refuelling was demonstrated, this is also, according to permitted rules, as capabilities are allowed to be demonstrated at a later stage.
So where is this taking us, you ask? The point is since nothing seems amiss and the air is pretty clear, one hopes India will make a decision fast and not give in to wrangling of parties. If we do not, it will be clear that we do not trust ourselves, which by the way, seems to be becoming a national virus.

1 comment:

  1. Neelam has evaluated the issue wonderfully! What she says is also true with many more acquisitions in the pipeline. Trust, faith in the system, domain knowledge of the Service & most importantly the operational necessity of a platform/weapon system, has taken second place these days! There seems to be a concerted effort by the Babus to scuttle or intentionally delay all Military acquisitions......God Save the Country!!!