The fight for the contract of 125 fighter aircraft, which the Indian Air Force (IAF) is looking to purchase, is due to carry on till the very end with none of the prospective parties involved in the future bidding process ready to give up in the favour of the other, especially the USA, which seems to be ahead of the others in common perception as of now.
While the French, who are offering the latest version of the Mirage-2000, have decided to go till the very last and are confident of getting the contract from the Indian Government, the Russians are also making intense preparations. It is an all out preparation for the war here in the city that is so used to bloodier versions of war.
The Russians have made their intentions clear to fight tooth and nail till the contracts are not decided as the stakes are very high. It will be one of the biggest contracts in the Indian defence history. The Russian Government and MIG (Russian Aircraft Corporation) are undertaking drastic changes and unprecedented preparations to get it.
Each of the fighter planes that the IAF would buy could cost anywhere between Rs 150 crore to Rs 200 crore, while the total contract would be well over Rs 25,000 crore. There are indications that the Indian Government could be issuing the Request for Proposals (ROF) in January finally putting the process for the purchase in motion.
On Wednesday evening, when Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the high level defence delegation accompanying him reached the MIG’s sprawling corporate complex in Moscow there were enough indications available that Russia was taking the whole process seriously and would be going all out to bid for the contract.
Receiving Mr Mukherjee and his delegation was the recently appointed new chief of MIG-Alexei Federov, the man who till recently was heading the company that manufactured Sukhoi-30s for the Indian Air Force. Mr Federov is a sort of legend in Russian aviation circles-the man headed Irkut Corporation after the Communist collapse, built the company from almost nothing to create the new series of Sukhois. And he led the successful negotiation with India and sold SU-30s in 1996-it was one of the biggest military contracts after the Communist collapse.
Now Mr Federov and his lieutenants have been brought into MIG-this time to fight its battle against the global giants like Lockheed Martin, which makes F-16s, Boeing, which makes F-18 Super Hornets, and the French Mirage-2000 manufacturers. Lockheed Martin at present being the frontrunner seeing the emerging Indo-US relations.
Mr Federov was not the only surprise. MIG Corporation made a detailed presentation on what they are offering to the IAF- they don’t call it the MIG-29 but MIG-35s.
The aircraft are an improved version of the MIG-29s with capabilities that MIG Corporation claims no other fighter aircraft in the world has. It has an all aspect thrust vector control; can actually stop mid-way during flight. This quality will not only allow the fighter to get better accuracy in its attack role, but would also help it to avoid an enemy fighter chase, among other things, they argue.