A deal to buy six Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) for Indian Air Force's (IAF) mid-air refueller/tanker programme has not been finalised, and is reportedly still stuck in the contract negotiation committee (CNC) stage.
The Times of India reported that the indecision over the $2-billion procurement deal has caused "frustration" in IAF, even though the aircraft/tanker was selected in 2013. IAF wants the Defence Ministry to fast-track the process, which will lead to advancement of India's strategic reach with respect to its fighters and bombers.
Airbus A330 tankers are two-engined aircraft which won the bid twice over Ilyushin Il-78, a four-engined aircraft. Seven Il-78s are already in Indian Air Force's inventory. The tankers extend the combat range of fighters and bombers, thus allowing them to carry more weapons.
"The IAF believes the case is just going around in circles without any resolution. It is stuck in the CNC stage, with Airbus being asked to keep on extending the validity of its commercial bid," a Defence Ministry source told the Times of India.
Airbus A330 tankers were cleared in both commercial and technical evaluations. But issues, like a pending case against Airbus Industries with the Civil Aviation Ministry and the change in the company's name from EADS Cassidian to Airbus Group, have been obstacles with what the report calls the "MoD's convoluted procurement procedures".
The Royal Australian Air Force has five A330 MRTTs in service and has ordered two more, while the French Air Force has ordered nine.
Other countries that use A330 MRTT tanker or have already placed orders include the UK's Royal Air Force, United Arab Emirates Air Force, Republic of Korea Air Force, Republic of Singapore Air Force, Royal Saudi Air Force, Qatar, Spain, Belgium and Netherlands.
The A330 MRTT tanker has a payload capacity of 45,000 kg and is powered by two engines. It has a combat radius of 1,800 km with 50 tonnes and a ferry range of 14,800 km.