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Updated: April 29, 2011 03:47 IST

U.S. "deeply disappointed" by thumbs down to fighter jets

K. V. Prasad
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U.S. Ambassador Timothy Roemer has expressed disappointment over the rejection of Boeing’s F-18 and Lockheed-Martin’s F-16 fighters by India in the bid for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft deal. File photo
PTI U.S. Ambassador Timothy Roemer has expressed disappointment over the rejection of Boeing’s F-18 and Lockheed-Martin’s F-16 fighters by India in the bid for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft deal. File photo

With both Boeing and Lockheed Martin failing to make it to the Indian Air Force's final shortlist for the $11 billion deal for 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) — a contract that American leaders and diplomats had said would determine the direction of strategic relations between the two countries — the United States on Thursday expressed deep disappointment at the outcome and indicated it would continue to press its case with India.

Representatives of the European consortium offering Eurofighter and French Dassault offering Rafale were on Thursday asked by the Ministry of Defence to extend the validity of the commercials bids — that expire on April 28 — till December 31, 2011, officials said here.

It is understood that the companies have been given two weeks' time to complete the formality while on its part, the Ministry decided to start the process of “benchmarking,” setting a price band for the deal.

As reported by The Hindu on Wednesday, the Ministry sent letters to the two European companies after completion of Technical Evaluation by the Indian Air Force. The process of ‘down selecting' the two meant elimination of the other four competitors including two American firms — Boeing (F/A-18 Super Hornet) and Lockheed Martin (F16IN Super Viper). Sweden's SAAB (Gripen) and Russian Mikoyan (MiG35) were the other two to lose out in the deal that is estimated around Rs. 45,000 crore.

Of the 126 MMRCA , 18 would be in ready-to-fly condition while the rest were to be produced in India under Transfer of Technology. That 50 per cent value of the deal would have to be sourced within the country is among the terms and conditions.

Roemer ‘disappointed'

Meanwhile, the U.S. Ambassador, Timothy J. Roemer, said he was “deeply disappointed” on being informed by the government that the two aircraft it offered to India were not selected for procurement.

In a statement released hours after announcing his decision to resign as the Ambassador, he said the Embassy was reviewing the documents it received from the government and “is respectful of the procurement process.”

Mr. Roemer said he had been personally assured at the highest levels of the Indian government that the procurement process for the MMRCA “has been and will be transparent and fair” and expressed confidence that aircraft offered by Boeing and Lockheed Martin would “provide the Indian Air Force an unbeatable platform with proven technology at a competitive price.”

“We look forward to continuing to grow and develop our defence partnership with India and remain convinced that the United States offers our defence partners around the globe the world's most advanced and reliable technology,” the statement said.

On its part, the Boeing company said it would request and receive a debrief from the Indian Air Force and after reviewing the details, it will make a decision concerning possible options, “always keeping in mind the impact to the Indian Air Force.”

“We believe we offered the Indian Air Force a fully compliant and best-value multi-role aircraft for the defined mission. We will continue to look for opportunities to help India modernise its armed services and enhance its aerospace industry,” the company release said.

Over the last few years, the United States has successfully sold several defence equipment to India through the Foreign Military Sales (Government-to-Government) route. These include 12 Boeing VIP Business Jets, 8 P8I Long Term Maritime Patrol Aircraft. Lockheed Martin has supplied the first of the six C130J tactical transport aircraft for IAF and a follow-up order is expected. 12 weapon locating radars, Landing Ship Dock INS Jalashwa (USS Trenton) are already with India while recently HAL/DRDO signed deal for 99 GE414 engines to power ‘Tejas' Light Combat Aircraft.

The government is in the process of finalising deal for 10 Boeing C17 Globemaster transport aircraft that American President Barack Obama indicated during his November 2010 visit. In addition, the Indian Army is to get 145 ultra-light Howitzer field guns from BAE Systems while inquiries are on for Javelin anti-tank missile, beside a few more. The collective value of these deals is expected to cross $ 15 billion.

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