The purchase deal for 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) fighter planes should be signed by April 2013, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K.Browne, Chief of Air Staff, said.

“Negotiations are on. We should be able to finish [the contract] this financial year. It is a complex process. We are discussing offsets, transfer of technology, HAL’s [Hindustan Aeronautics Limited] role and the cost, of course. It is progressing well,” he said on Thursday.

The Air Chief was speaking at a news conference organised in connection with the arrival of the Brazilian aircraft that will carry the indigenously developed airborne early warning and control system. The MMRCA deal, estimated at around Rs 50,000 crore, is considered this decade’s largest military purchase. An additional order is said to be in the offing. The Indian Air Force is seeking to replace its ageing MiG-21s with a modern fighter.

After a gruelling contest involving six aircraft manufacturers, the IAF picked the French entry, Rafale fourth-generation fighter plane, in February 2012. A multi-ministry negotiations committee is currently in talks with its manufacturer, Dassault Systemes. Eighteen of the 126 planes are to be purchased directly from Dassault, while HAL will manufacture the other 108 under a licence at an upcoming facility in Bangalore.

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