The Indian Air Force plans to publish a $100 million tender in Sept/05 for a command and control system. Defense News reports that the system is an ambitious attempt to imitate NATO's command and control network, and that the tender is for more than $100 million. The company chosen will also have to help integrate the Indian Air Force's current air defense, control, surveillance, warplane mission management system, and airspace management systems with the new backbone.
This tender comes at an important time, and will test both India's and Israel's recent defense agreements with the USA.
Elbit Systems and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) have been invited to bid on the huge international tender. This is hardly surprising given their substantial relationships and experience with India's military and especially its air force. Meanwhile, US C4SI capabilities companies are among the offerings being promoted in a recent "informational briefing" tour by Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler, head of the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) which oversees U.S. weapons export controls.
The tender is likely to serve as a test case for the recent memorandum signed by Israel and the US on sales of weapons and military systems to sensitive countries. In effect, the document gives the US a veto on Israel's exports of weapons and technology to countries that the US believes constitute a threat to its security, or the security of a given region. Senior Israeli defense industry figures warned that rather than being aimed only at China, the memorandum would actually be used in protectionist ways to hinder and strangle Israeli defense exports to other markets in Asia, including India.
The USA's behaviour around this contract will either prove these critics correct and create substantial policy rethinks in Israel, or allow an even competition and lay those concerns to rest.
At the same time, India has its own concerns about receiving "second best" offers from the USA, and is looking for evidence that Washington intends to treat the nation as a full defense partner in the wake of their recent 10-year defense pact. India's new foreign procurement rules are likely to make this hurdle even more challenging.
These concerns are not mutually exclusive by any means; and indeed, the easiest way to sidestep them both is for the USA to put as few roadblocks in the way as possible for the companies involved, remain scripulously even-handed, and let the competition run its course.
The Tender Process
Bids and technical specifications for this ambitious C4I contract must be submitted within three months of the publication of the tender. The Indian Air Force will examine the bids for 4-6 months, and draw up a short list of candidates, from which the winner will be selected. Signing of the contract with the winner is scheduled within a year of the short list's publication.
This gives the contract signing date a target of April-June 2007, though participating companies are advised by DID to have patience with India's defense procurement processes and be prepared for longer time frames. The winning company will have to build a prototype of the system two years after the contract is signed.