Conflict & Justice

US out of hunt for huge Indian fighter contract

An European Eurofighter flies over Le Bourget airport 21 June 2001 at the 44th Paris-Le Bourget Air Show. The Eurofighter and France's Dassault Rafale have eliminated competing jets in the competition for India's lucrative multi-role combat aircraft contract. (FREDERICK FLORIN - AFP/Getty Images)

India eliminated US-based Boeing and Lockheed Martin from the competition for a $10 billion contract to supply 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft to the Indian Air Force, the Indian Express reports

The paper quoted unnamed sources as saying only two of the six companies fighting for the contract will be called in tomorrow to extend their commercial bids.

According to reports, the US companies were eliminated after their fighters -- the F-16IN Super Viper and the F/A-18 Super Hornet -- were outperformed by the French Rafale and the Eurofighter in technical trials. India also eliminated fighters made by Sweden's Saab AB and the Russian makers of the MiG 35, according to AFP.

But the decision will come as a blow to US President Barack Obama, who personally lobbied for the US firms during his recent visit to India -- which is embarking on a huge defense spending spree to modernize its forces.

According to a recent study by the consultancy firm KPMG, India is expected to buy $100 billion in foreign weapons by 2022. In the pipeline already are a $10 billion contract for 126 multi-role combat aircraft, a $7.6 billion tender for 12 stealth frigates, a $3.5 billion deal for seven submarines and a $3 billion contract for 197 light helicopters, among other items.

That sounds great for hardware junkies. But the truth is that Indian pilots will be happy that any progress is being made at all -- regardless what bird is selected in the end for the multi-role combat aircraft -- as India's defense procurement has been notorious for interminable delays.