K.V. Prasad

NEW DELHI: French fighter aircraft Rafale has been allowed to take part in the Indian Air Force’s bid to acquire 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the Defence Procurement Board here on Monday, sources in the Defence Ministry said. Rafale, made by Dassault, was earlier declared out of the race after technical evaluations. Sources in the Ministry said the Technical Evaluation Committee had made the recommendation, as Dassault did not provide information on some equipment and add-ons that the IAF wanted to be in the aircraft. However, the Defence Procurement Board, which met under the chairmanship of Defence Secretary Vijay Singh, decided not to accept the recommendation. The Board felt the French firm should also get a look-in when the Indian Air Force conducted field trials over the next few months, the sources said.

After the news emerged in April, the French launched a fresh bid. Many of the issues that remained unresolved were since then addressed, the sources said. Now that the parameters set out in the technical evaluations had been complied with, it was felt that Rafale should be allowed to take part in the bid, along with Boeing’s F/A18, Lockheed Martin’s F-16, Saab’s Gripen, MIG-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon.

F/A18, F-16, MiG-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon took part in the Bangalore Aero India Show this February, but Rafale and Gripen did not participate in the live display.

Saab announced the opening of its office in India and put up a cockpit simulator, while the French delegation was led by its Defence Minister.