NEW DELHI (AP) — India's Defense Ministry has begun reviewing competing bids from Eurofighter and Dassault for the purchase of 126 multi-role combat aircraft worth about $11 billion.
Ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said officials met with representatives of the European competitors on Friday and are expected to take six to eight weeks to pick the winning bidder. Eurofighter is offering its Typhoon aircraft while Dassault's bid is for its Rafale.
Planes from Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin of the United States and from Russian and Swedish makers were earlier disqualified on technical and operational grounds.
India, the world's biggest arms importer, is being wooed by major international arms manufacturers as it replaces its obsolete Soviet-era weapons.
Eighteen fighter aircraft are to be delivered in "fly away" condition within 36 months and the remaining 108 are to be built by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. through technology transfers.
The deal is expected to be signed before the end of India's current financial year in March.
The ministry's price negotiating committee will now determine the cost of the planes, their on-board weaponry, technology transfers, warranty for the first 24 months and royalties for their licensed manufacture by Hindustan Aeronautics, said Rahul Bedi, a New Delhi-based analyst for the independent Jane's Information Group.
Bedi said the actual number of fighters is expected to rise above 200 as the air force desperately seeks to augment its rapidly shrinking fighter squadrons as Soviet and Russian planes reach obsolescence.