Commercial bids for MMRCA tender to open next week?

New Delhi: With the French defence minister already in Delhi and German chancellor Angel Merkel due to arrive for a one day working visit the stage is set for the opening of commercial bids for India's $11 billion tender for 126 medium range multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA). Reports suggest the bids will be opened next week.

EurofighterThe tender saw participation from six global fighter aircraft manufacturing companies including Lockheed Martin and Boeing from America, MiG RCA from Russia, Saab Gripen from Sweden, Eurofighter, a European consortium and Dassault from France.

A long-winded technical and field evaluation process has seen the shortlist whittled down to two contestants –Dassault and Eurofighter.

Dassault RafaleThe opening of the commercial bids would reveal the lowest bidder and allow commercial negotiations to commence.

Reports suggest that though Dassault may boast of low costs, Eurofighter's offer of industrial partnership may turn out to be a game changer.

French defence minister, Gerard Longuet, and his Indian counterpart, AK Antony, held talks in Delhi on Friday. The minster is here on a two day visit.

Interacting with reporters later, Longuet had a dig at his European counterparts. ''We have one single speaking partner (Dassault) instead of four partners (Italy, Germany, Spain and UK),'' Longuet said, referring to the consortium of EADS, Alenia Aeronautica and BAE Systems, which constructs the Eurofighter Typhoon through the consortium, Eurofighter GmbH.

Mindful of the French presence in town, German ambassador Thomas Matussek, said: ''The Typhoon represents the most advanced and cost-efficient machines.

During her talks with prime minister Manmohan Singh, the chancellor will express satisfaction about the transparency and the orderly manner in which the whole process of selection took place.''

He was referring to the upcoming visit of his country's chancellor, Angela Merkel, to Delhi on Tuesday, 31 May.