Russia's hope of bagging the Rs. 9,000-crore contract to supply mid-air refueller's to India is over. They were pipped by the European aviation giant, Airbus.
Despite the setbacks, however, Russia remains the biggest supplier of arms to India. Russia and India are soon likely to sign a contract for joint production of the fifth-generation, stealth, fighter aircraft deal at an estimated cost of over 30 Billion USD.
This is the second time that Airbus A-330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (A-330 MRTT) has emerged as the first choice of the Indian Air Force (IAF). The IAF has a fleet of six Russian-made Illyusin-78 (IL-78) refuellers and wants to acquire another six mid-air refuellers.
In 2010, after the entire process of selection was completed by the IAF, the Union Finance Ministry scrapped the purchase. The Finance Ministry had expressed apprehension with the selection process and the pricing of the Airbus A-330 MRTT.
The acquisition of the A-330 mid- air refuellers now underlines the need to streamline the defence procurement process. For, while IAF will be buying the same aircraft which it had shortlisted in 2009, Indian tax-payers will have to pay more because of cost escalations that have occurred in the past four years.
The twin-engine A-330 tipped the four-engine IL-78 because of running and maintenance costs. A-330 emerged the cheaper option when the lifecycle costs of both machines were considered, MoD sources said. The A-330 is the modified version of the Airbus A-330 and works as a transport aircraft as well as a mid-air refueller. It can carry about 110 tonnes of fuel. Alternatively, it can also carry as much as 45 tonnes of cargo. A-330 is capable of refuelling several fighter planes at the same time.