After two failed attempts to induct new tankers during the last 12 years, the Indian Air Force is (IAF) preparing to begin a fresh hunt for new-generation mid-air refuelling planes to extend the reach of its fighter jets, two senior IAF officers said on condition of anonymity on Wednesday.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) is set to issue a formal tender to procure six multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft after it had terminated a $2 billion contract with Airbus Defence and Space in 2017. India issued a request for information to the European corporation Airbus, US-based Boeing and Russia’s Ilyushin Aviation Complex last year.
The tender will include a mandatory direct defence offset clause and the ministry will also take into account 30-year life cycle costs, in addition to costs associated with maintenance and spare parts before deciding the winnerE
European and US aviation giants Airbus and Boeing as well as Russia’s Ilyushin Aviation are vying for a $2 billion contract which is expected in November or December. India’s defence ministry has twice (in 2007 and 2010) solicited bids for the delivery of six refuelling aircraft. Both were later cancelled.
“We plan to seek the Acceptance of Necessity for six new tankers in November-December. It will clear the way for sending request for proposals (RFPs) to foreign military contractors,” an Indian Air Force official was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times.
The decision in this regard by India’s Defence Acquisition Council is expected at some point in October, which will pave the way for a formal tender by end of this year. The Defence Acquisition Council is the defence ministry’s highest-level procurement body.
India’s defence ministry has twice (2007 and 2010) released a tender for the delivery of six refuelling aircraft but both were cancelled at an advanced stage. The 2007 tender was cancelled at the behest of India’s ministry of finance because of the high price tag, and the 2010 tender, under which it had shortlisted six Airbus A330 MRTT aircraft for the Indian Air Force, was cancelled due to procedural irregularities.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) operates several Il-78MKI tankers delivered in 2003-2006. In the last tender, Indian defence ministry had rejected the four-engine Russian Ilyusin-78 aircraft in favour of the two-engine Airbus-330 MRTT, explaining it was cheaper in the long term when compared with its Russian competitor if life-cycle costs were to be considered in the deal.
Nevertheless, the new tender brings new hope for the Russian aircraft and American Aircraft , as sources indicate that the Il-78MKI will be upgraded to the Il-78MKI-90 MRTT standard, while another Il-76MD transport aircraft will be converted into an Il-78MKI-90 if India decides to purchase Russian refuelling aircraft.
Russian Ilyushin Il-78 or American Boeing C-17 Globemaster III are seemed to be main contanders for the bid. IAF operates both IL-78 and C-17.
The Ilyushin Il-78 is a Soviet four-engined aerial refueling tanker based on the Il-76 strategic airlifter.
The Boeing C-17 Globemaster III is a large military transport aircraft. It was developed for the United States Air Force (USAF) from the 1980s to the early 1990s by McDonnell Douglas. The C-17 commonly performs tactical and strategic airlift missions, transporting troops and cargo throughout the world; additional roles include medical evacuation and airdrop duties.
The C-17 is strictly a transport aircraft which hasn’t been produced since 2015. Hence the IAF will not be purchasing a “NEW” C-17.