New Delhi, April 5 (IANS) The tender inviting bids for the Indian Air Force (IAF)'s plan to purchase 126 multi-role combat jets will be floated later this month, a senior official said here Wednesday.
Air Vice Marshal S. Mukerji, the assistant chief of air staff for concepts and doctrine, told reporters that bids would be sought from the makers of six jets - the F-16 and F-18 of the US, France's Rafale, Sweden's Gripen, the Eurofighter Typhoon and Russia's MiG-35.
The deal when clinched will be the single largest weapons purchase by India, which has emerged in recent years as one of the world's largest buyers of frontline military hardware as it modernises the ageing Soviet-era equipment held by its armed forces.
'The RFPs (requests for proposals) will be floated in the third or fourth week of this month. Everything has been cleared,' Mukerji said.
The Mirage 2000-5, which was one of the jets earlier shortlisted by the IAF, is no longer in the race for the deal as it was withdrawn by its makers, Dassault.
Mukerji, however, admitted that the Mirage was one of the cheaper jets considered by the IAF and its withdrawal could increase the value of the deal.
'It is a setback in terms of monetary considerations,' he said.
Mukerji said the fighter finally selected for the purchase would depend on two key factors - the lowest bid and the highest level of capability. 'It will have to fit in with our requirements for security and budget,' he said.
Some reports have, however, suggested that the Indian government might delay floating the RPFs till the India-US civil nuclear deal is cleared by the US Congress.
This would be done, sources said, to send out a message that the F-16 and F-18 could be dropped from the shortlist if the nuclear deal was not cleared.
The US has stepped up its efforts to pitch the two jets to India as an order for one of them would come as a significant boost to the American military industry, which has yet to win a sizeable deal from India.