India is set to announce the winner of the multi-billion dollar deal to procure next generation fighters by the end of this month with complex calculations to find the cheapest option set to conclude over the next few days.
The proposals of the two contenders French Dassault Rafale and EADS Eurofighter have been scrutinised and final calculations related to life cycle costs and transfer of technology details are being finalised. While IAF sources have said the winner would be announced in the next 10 days,Defence Ministry officials said the decision would be announced by the end of this month.
With both contenders clearing the technical trials,the decision will be based on which of the two is cheaper,not just in immediate capital costs but in long-term operating and maintenance costs. Though both the ministry and IAF have been tight-lipped on the probable winner,the French proposal is believed to be slightly cheaper.
The final signing of the contract,however could take up to six months,the sources said. The original plan was to sign the contract this financial year,but it could be shifted beyond March.
While the fighter project is the biggest acquisition being handled by the Air Force,another project to procure a new basic trainer fleet will also be discussed by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) this week,the sources said. The IAF has already selected Pilatus PC 7 aircraft from Switzerland for the deal to purchase 75 basic trainers.
However,the deal has got delayed after South Korea,which was also participating in the competition,sent a formal note of protest to the Indian government on the selection process.
The CCS had earlier this month asked the Defence Ministry and Air Force for clarifications on the deal,particularly related to technology transfer,issues which had been raised by Seoul.