IAF pushes for early deal on Airbus mid-air refuel craft

The Indian Air Force has reportedly stressed the need for a decision from the defence ministry on the $2 billion acquisition of six Airbus 330 mid-air refuelling aircraft or air tankers.

The IAF wants the A-330 MRTT deal to be inked at the earliest to boost strategic reach of its fighters and bombers.

"The IAF believes the case is just going around in circles without any resolution. It is stuck in the CNC (contract negotiation committee) stage, with Airbus being asked to keep on extending the validity of its commercial bid," The Times of India today quoted an unnamed defence ministry source as saying.

The IAF is adding pressure on the government as French President Francois Hollande is on a state visit. Airbus Group is headquartered in France.

The deal has been put on hold after the government referred it to the defence ministry's vigilance department for clearance in April last year.

The contract with Airbus has been delayed due to the pending inquiries against the European consortium dating back to the mid-1970s. The procurement case was sent to the law ministry for an opinion after a member of parliament wrote to the defence ministry against it.

The mid-air refuelling tanker would double the strike range of fighters and bombers and would bolster IAF's strategic reach.

The two-engine Airbus-330 MRTT (multi-role tanker transport) aircraft was selected over the four-engine Russian Ilyushin-78 in January 2013. The finance ministry had balked at the high price of the European aircraft and asked the defence ministry to seek buyers afresh.