New Delhi, Mar 21: The deal for procuring six mid-air refueller aircraft for the Air Force has entered its last phase with the IAF completing the field trials of the planes on offer.
Airbus Military, one of the contenders of the deal, today said the winter trials of the aircraft were concluded by the end of the last year during which the IAF checked the planes against all its specific requirements.
“Flight trials were concluded by the end of last year. So the ball is now back in the court of Indian authorities,” Ian Elliott, Vice President, Defence Capability Marketing, Airbus told reporters here.
He was replying to a question on the status of the deal and whether the flight trials of the aircraft are over or not.
Talking about the requirement placed by the IAF, he said, “Requirement is of six tankers. But it is the initial stage of the competition and that number can probably go up because of the nature of the requirement in this part of the world.”
He denied any information on the summer trials of the aircraft which are in the race.
“I am not aware that request is forthcoming. I am not aware of any (such proposal)... In terms of the trials, those (winter) were the only trials,” Elliot said.
IAF has conducted three different kinds of trials of the aircraft to check their individual performance and parameters in several different conditions of terrain, weather and functioning of essential equipments.
Air Force had issued the original tender for mid-air refueller a couple of years ago, but it was cancelled following Finance Ministry's objection to the cost put forth by Airbus Military, whose A-330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft was selected for awarding the contract.
The tender was re-issued in September 2010 and Airbus Military- a European consortium company- applied for it again.
The firm is now pitted against the Russian Ilyushin, which has offered the IL-78 for the contract.
IAF is already operating six of the IL-78 refuellers in its fleet for over half a decade now and the squadron is based at Agra air force base.
The new midair refuellers are required by the IAF to augment its existing IL-78 fleet. The air-to-air refuellers are used by air forces for refuelling its fighters and transport aircraft while in flight to enhance the endurance of these platforms.
The midair refuellers are a major force multiplier for air forces so as to keep their fighter jets in air to respond to security threats for longer periods of time. This time, the IAF has asked the global manufacturers of midair refuellers to submit their proposals as per life cycle costs.