Airbus looks to close contract of mid-air refueling aircraft

With the passage of a year since its selection by the Indian government as the ''preferred bidder'' for the supply its A330 MRTT Multi Role Tanker Transport to the Indian Air Force (IAF), European defence supplier Airbus Defence and Space yesterday said it was confident of the finalisation of the deal within the current fiscal. The government has, in the meantime, urged Airbus to extend the validity of its tender bid to 31 July, 2014.

A330 MRTTSpeaking during a media interaction organised to make India aware of its airlifter, the A400 M, officials of Airbus said they were confident that the contract for the supply of six A330 MRTT would get through very soon.

The aircraft, the company said, had been selected following a lengthy and thorough selection process which included the completion of extensive flight demonstrations in India during which various types of  IAF fighters operated from the high-altitude IAF base at Leh were refueled.

Following the shortlisting of the company, detailed negotiations were held and even as the final production contract for the six aircraft was expected to have come through in 2013, Airbus is now banking on what would happen ahead of the elections.

Meanwhile, the company had been asked by the government of India to extend the validity of its tender bid for the supply of six mid-air refueling aircraft.

PTI reported that the development comes at a time when the defence ministry had almost exhausted its modernisation funds for this fiscal and was understood to have postponed till 2014-15, the finalisation of many key deals such as the procurement of attack and heavy-lift helicopters.

The report quoted Airbus Defence officials, as saying in New Delhi that the defence ministry had asked the company to extend the validity of the offer to 31 July 2014.

IAF last year selected Airbus to fulfill its requirement for six mid-air refuelling aircraft and was in negotiations with the European firm for finalising the contract, which would be expected to be worth over Rs6,000 crore.

The firm was chosen by IAF after it emerged as the lowest bidder in terms of life-cycle costs against its Russian rival, the Ilyushin-78 tanker aircraft.