An artist's impression of an Indian Air Force A330MRTT refueling two Mirage 2000 fighters. (Airbus D&S)
India has withdrawn the tender for a new air refueling tanker,
more than three years after choosing the AirbusA330MRTT in preference to the
Ilyushin Il-78 following a second round of bidding. This latest example of
indecision on major defense projects, following the saga of the Medium
Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) program,
is creating concern in the international defense industry that India is
chronically indecisive. However,AINhas
learned from a senior Indian Ministry of Defence official that theA330MRTTprocurement may still be
concluded, on an intergovernmental basis between Spain and India.
there has been no official confirmation, Indian media reported that the high
price of theMRTTis the reason behind the nation's
failing to conclude a contract. However, the vendor has not been given the
cause for the pullout. “The cost of theMRTThas increased following depreciation
of the rupee in the past three years,” said the senior MoD official.
Indian Air Force (IAF)
officer commented toAIN: “This is ludicrous. The MoD is
making inconsistent statements. TheA330MRTTwas chosen after considering the total
cost of the platform plus the life cycle costs. Yes, it is more expensive to
acquire than the Il-78, but much more efficient. So what changed?”
AnIAFengineer said the sixIL-78s already in service in theIAFare suffering from maintenance issues
related to unavailability or delays in acquiring spares. “Sometimes there are
structural issues and at other times, problems with the Israeli pods that keeps
the fleet grounded.” He said that at the recent Red Flag Exercise in the U.S, only
one of the twoIL-78s sent by theIAFperformed.AINcould not confirm this. “The MRTTis urgent because we need to enhance
our capability,”IAFchief of staff Air Chief Marshal
Arup Raha toldAINin April.
ministry official said it did not make financial sense to have a mix of models
in the fleet as the cost for setting up a maintenance facility for theA330s “would be enormous.” This
was refuted by a retiredIAFofficial who
said that maintenance facilities already exist in India for the airframe as
Airbus has a large commercial presence here. “This is utter lack of
understanding,” he said.