Decision on tanker competition next month
Acrucial competition to select a new mid-air tanker for the Indian Air Force is likely to end next month with the opening of bids. EADS, which fields the Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport, will be watching with baited breath, having burnt its fingers once before: in late 2009, the competition’s first attempt was scrapped after EADS emerged a front-runner on the matter of high flyaway cost, despite a strenuous effort by the IAF to convince the MoD not to cancel the tender. The company is understood to have reworked its strategy in the refloated competition with the same platform, and will make use of the new focus on ownership/life-cycle cost, rather than platform cost. It competes against the Russian Ilyushin-78M, six of which are already operational with the IAF. Following the floating of a fresh tender in 2010, field evaluation trials were conducted in Spain in July that year, followed by Indian trials in Gwalior. Both tankers are understood to have met all requirements. The IAF is understood to have once again stated its preference for the A330 MRTT, though it remains to be seen how the mathematics work out at the MoD.