April 16, 2009, New Delhi -- The French Rafale fighter has been knocked off a $ 10 billion contract to provide 126 combat aircraft for the Indian Air Force. The French fighter, which was one of the six contenders for the race, was officially rejected by the Defence Ministry for failing to meet qualitative requirements for the contract.
The news comes as a bit of a shock as the Indian Air Force has been maintaining that all six contenders – the American F 18 and F 16, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Russian MiG 35, Swedish Gripen NG and the French fighter – had met the technical requirements.
However, a senior defence ministry official made is clear on Thursday that RafalE has been rejected at the technical evaluation stage for failing to meet minimum performance requirements that had been detailed in the tender document. The flight trials for the remaining five fighters are now expected to commence within three months, a senior MoD official said.
"They did not meet the requirements and will not proceed to the next stage. We hope to begin trials within three months with the others that have qualified," a top Defence Ministry official said.
While the French fighter was always considered an underdog in the competition, which has been described as the largest international defence contract in the world, it was been aggressively pushed by the French government. Former President Jacques Chirac and his successor Nichols Sarkozy have been talking about the fighter in all their interactions with India.
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