India not sign MRCA deal this financial year

Dassault Aviation's fighter jet Rafale has emerged as India's choice in the 126 Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) competition. The deal is estimated to be worth USD 10.4 billion making it one of the largest defense deals in the world.

We were among the first to report the story which has been confirmed by various mainstream media houses in India and France. The French President Nicholas Sarkozy welcomed the news as it was confirmed by a Dassault Aviation press release.

However Indian Defence Minister Mr. A.K. Anthony told reporters that this deal would not be signed in the current financial year (April 2011 to March 2012)

"Not this financial year"
-- Defence Minister A.K. Antony replying to Reuters

It will, however, soon be announced that Rafale has emerged as the lowest bidder.

In addition to the 126, an order for another 80 is a possibility which will keep the Dassault Rafale production lines active for nearly a decade.

The U.S. company Lockheed Martin has kept alive hopes of selling its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to India. One defense ministry source with knowledge of the negotiations said the life-time cost of the tender including training and maintenance may reach $15 billion. Previous estimates put the cost around $11 billion.

The defense ministry source said each Rafale was $4 million to $5 million cheaper than its rival and the plane was preferred by the Air Force.

"Unit-wise, the French plane is much cheaper than the Eurofighter. Moreover, the Indian Airforce, which is well-equipped with French fighters, is favoring the French fighter," said the source, who asked not be named.