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India completes more air refueling trials

  |   Jan. 6, 2012 at 6:30 AM
NEW DELHI, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- India's air force has completed more trials of an EADS Airbus 330 and an Ilyushin 78 air-to-air refueling aircraft as part of its latest attempt to purchase six planes, likely for around $2 billion.

The capability assessment at Gwalior Air Base in north central India followed trials in Spain and Russia in July, a report by the Indian news Web site Rediff.com said.

The latest tender for a Multi-role Tanker Transport was reissued in September 2010, nine months after a similar MRTT contract featuring the same two tankers for around $1.06 billion was stopped.

India's finance ministry questioned the value for money offered during the previous tender issued in 2006. A major issue was the fact that the air force already operates six of the four-engine IL-78 tankers bought in 2004.

The Finance Ministry argued that buying more Ilyushins would be cheaper.

Despite this, the air force chose the Airbus 330 over the Il-78 in 2009. But the Finance Ministry quashed the deal in early 2010, saying a re-tender was needed using better procurement processes and assessment methods.

The Gwalior trials had the planes refueling Su-30MKI, Mirage 2000H and MiG-29 aircraft operated by the Indian air force, the Rediff report said.

Sealed bids from Airbus and Ilyushin will be opened later this year.

Last month, Russia and India signed a preliminary deal for Russia to sell 42 more Su-30 MKI fighter jets in kit form and provide technical assistance during their production.

The jets will be assembled in India by Hindustan Aeronautics. The aircraft's integrated electronic warfare system has a Tarang radar warning system made by the Indian government's Defense Research and Development Organization.

The Airbus A330 tanker is operated by Australia, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

In November, Australia took delivery of its third A330 MRTT as part of a five-aircraft order. It was converted from an Airbus A330 jetliner airframe by Qantas Defense Services in Brisbane, Australia, Airbus said at the time.

Australia's fourth and fifth MRTT aircraft are scheduled for delivery this year.

Airbus's attempt to break into the U.S. defense market has suffered so far a similar fate to that its Indian experience.

The U.S. Air Force issued a request for proposal for 100 air-to-air tanker in 2006 and Airbus went head to head with Boeing and its 767.

Airbus, with its partner Northrop Grumman won the U.S. Air Force contract in mid 2008 but a complaint by Boeing over the lease agreement meant the tender was reissued in 2009.

Boeing won the $35 billion contract in February 2011.

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