Airbus Tries Again for Indian Tanker Win

 - March 23, 2012, 4:06 PM
The Indian Air Force evaluated the Airbus A330MRTT at Leh airbase in India last November. (Photo: Airbus Military)

The Indian Air Force (IAF) will decide on a new multi-role tanker transport by year-end. Bids for six aircraft from Airbus Military for the A330MRTT and from Ilyushin for the Il-78MK are now being compared, Airbus Military market development vice president Ian Elliott told AIN in Delhi this week. The new in-flight refuelers will augment the existing fleet of six Il-78s, which has been in service for over half a decade at Agra airbase.

Flight trials with Indian air force personnel were completed in November last year and included takeoffs and landings at 10,682-foot-elevation Leh airbase and participation by IAF Sukhoi Su-30s and Jaguars.

India reissued its tender for the MRTT in late 2010. The IAF had previously selected the A330MRTT, but the Ministry of Finance later rejected it because of the high capital investment cost. Elliott said that the only change in the request for proposal (RFP) from the earlier one is a focus on lifecycle costs over 30 years. Airbus Military has worked hard to drive down these costs, Elliott said. He noted that India does not require a refuelling boom, only a hose-and-drogue system. The new tanker will be required to refuel larger aircraft such as the IAF’s new C-130Js, as well as fighters.

Two more ongoing evaluations in India also pit Western equipment against Russian alternatives. The Eurocopter AS550 Fennec is competing against the Kamov Ka-226 to meet a requirement for 197 reconnaissance helicopters.. The Boeing CH-47 Chinook and the Mil Mi-26T2 are contenders for a heavy-lift helicopter requirement.

Meanwhile, the Indian Defence Minister confirmed in parliament that Pilatus has won the competition for a basic trainer with its bid to supply 75 PC-7s, although the contract has still not been signed. Another deal that awaits signature with the U.S. is for 22 Boeing AH-64D Apaches. The competing Mil Mi-28 was eliminated from the attack helicopter evaluation last year.