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India shortlists Rafale, Eurofighter for jet deal

by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) April 28, 2011
India has shortlisted Dassault's Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon for a $12 billion dollar fighter jet deal, cutting out US bidders from one of the largest military contracts of recent years.

The US embassy in New Delhi confirmed Thursday that Lockheed Martin's F-16 and Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet had both been ruled out of the running for India's planned purchase of 126 multi-role combat aircraft.

Ambassador Timothy Roemer, who announced separately Thursday that he was resigning his post for personal reasons, said the US government was "deeply disappointed" by the decision.

The long-delayed fighter jet deal has seen fierce competition between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Sweden's Saab AB, France's Dassault Aviation, a European consortium with its Eurofighter Typhoon and the Russian makers of the MiG 35.

It was also the object of intense lobbying during visits to India last year by US President Barack Obama, French President Nicholas Sarkozy and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

"It is confirmed Eurofighter and Rafale have been selected and the remaining four are off," a senior Indian defence ministry official told AFP.

"The grounds for their rejection have been individually conveyed," said the official, who declined to be identified.

He added that the government hoped to sign the final fighter deal by March 2012.

Saab AB confirmed on Wednesday that it had been notified its JAS-39 Gripen fighter was no longer in contention.

The Eurofighter is made by the four-nation European Aeronautic Defence & Space consortium, representing Germany and Spain, Britain's BAE Systems and Italy's Finmeccanica.

The contract includes the outright purchase of 18 combat aircraft by 2012 with another 108 to be built in India.

India, the biggest importer of military hardware among emerging nations, issued the request for proposals to the six firms in 2007 and trials of the aircraft competing for the deal began a year later.

In his statement, Ambassador Roemer noted that he had been "personally assured" at the highest levels of the Indian government that the procurement process for the multi-role fighter "has been and will be transparent and fair".

The procurement of the fighter jets is a key part of India's military modernisation programme, aimed at securing its borders against its traditional and emerging rivals Pakistan and China.

International consultancy firm KPMG estimates New Delhi will hand out military contracts worth $112 billion by 2016.

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