BY EDITOR AT 19 JULY, 2010, 1:17 PM
The first spurts of information on the results of the trials conducted by the Indian Air Force (IAF) for its 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender are starting to trickle out.
A confident Bernhard Gerwart, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Military Air Systems at EADS Defence & Security, mingled with reporters in an informal chat with reporters in New Delhi on Tuesday and told them, “I believe we are compliant with all the requests that they have made. Yesterday, I had some meetings with representatives of the IAF and the MoD (Ministry of Defense) and, personally, I left with the impression that we had done well in the flight trials.”
But Herr Gerwert did offer a caveat, saying, “Mind you it’s just a feeling,” while pointing out the IAF had made no official statement to him.
At any rate he confirmed separately to StratPost, he would be sleeping easier after getting these vibes. While this is hardly definitive confirmation of the Eurofighter Typhoon having performed well in the trials from the perspective of the IAF, it is perhaps indicative of the feedback given by the IAF to representatives of the company.
And while Gerwert didn’t know if the IAF would come up with a short list or a ‘long list’, the issue of a down select remains open to question. It remains unclear whether any possible shortlist issued by the IAF would merely be an indication of preference or would actually result in the elimination of any of the contestants.
German Ambassador to India, Thomas Matussek, too, weighed in. “We have to see this in the geo-strategic context. Your security is our security,” he said. Did he think that if the MMRCA comes down to being a political decision, the four-European nations backing EADS would have the political capital to compete with the US? “The simple answer is ‘yes’. We’re easily on the same par as the United States,” he said.
The IAF is expected to submit its report on its evaluation of the six aircraft imminently, and industry watchers have been actively trying to get a sense of how it will play out. With the IAF enforcing a robust lockdown on any seepage of information so long as the report remains in their domain, defense journalists have been reduced to speculation on the play-out of the tender process.
Not surprisingly, reporters are straining their eyes trying to read between the lines of the statements issued by personalities such as Herr Gerwert and cryptic comments of IAF officers in private conversation, in the absence of any official indications.
There are some who argue that it would be in the interest of the IAF to indicate the results of the trials and its preferences, to make sure their views are not deviated from when the matter is laid before the Ministry of Defense. There are others who think this would be irrelevant, anticipating the IAF to indicate no clear preference one way or the other. Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s F-16, Saab’s Gripen IN, Dassault’s Rafale and the MiG-35 are the other aircraft competing in the tender.
But IAF officials admit to being eminently aware of the possibility of the conclusions of the report becoming public, once it is submitted to the ministry. And all concerned agree, some interesting times lie ahead, when that happens.