New Delhi, Jan 31 (IANS) This is how India’s biggest defence deal — a $10.4-billion tender for 126 combat aircraft — panned out:
* 2000: Indian Air Force (IAF) conveys to defence ministry its interest in acquiring medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) to replace its ageing fleet of Soviet-era MiG-21s and because of delays in developing the indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA).
* 2001: IAF issues request for information (RFI) for 126 combat jets.
* 2003: IAF seeks defence ministry’s permission to buy 50 more French Mirage-2000s to shore up the only MMRCAs in its fleet as a stop-gap arrangement. The aircraft had been acquired in the mid-1980s.
* 2004: Defence ministry asks IAF to instead issue a larger MMRCA tender.
* 2005: Defence ministry issues initial MMRCA tender but withdraws it quickly even as it starts receiving responses from vendors.
* 2006: The then IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi, flags the dwindling squadron strength of the force. From a sanctioned strength of 39.5 combat squadrons, the IAF is down to 33 squadrons.
* August 2007: India issues the tender for 126 MMRCAs at an estimated cost of $10.4 billion.
* February 2008: US majors Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation, France’s Dassault, European consortium EADS and Sweden’s SAAB submit their bids.
* April 2009: Reports that Dassault and SAAB are out of the race.
* May 2009: Defence ministry says Dassault and SAAB still in contention.
* April 2010: IAF completes its flight and weapons evaluation of the six contenders on the basis of 643 parameters.
* December 2010: Offset proposals of contenders goes missing; later found on the roadside in south Delhi. The incident threatens to derail the tendering process.
* April 2011: India down-selects EADS and Dassault for the final leg of the contest, rejecting the other four contenders.
* November 2011: The commercial offers from European consortium Eurofighter and France’s Dassault Aviation opened.
January 31, 2011: Dassault informed that it has emerged as the lowest bidder.