Airbus Military has submitted its bid in response to India’s RFP for a fleet of mid-air refueling tanker aircraft worth an estimated $1 billion. Airbus has pitched its latest generation Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) while the Russian arms exporting company Rosoboronexport which has offered an improved version of the IL78MKI tanker. Boeing which was expected to participate in the tender did not submit any bid. At a media briefing in New Delhi, Airbus Military's head of market development Didier Vernet confirmed that the bid had been submitted to the Indian MoD and that the A330 MRTT was a new generation aircraft “superior to the IL78”. It can be used as a tanker as well as converted into a freighter and troop carrier if need be, he added. In an earlier competition a couple of years ago, the A330MRTT was pitched against the IL78MKI and won the bid. However, the Indian MOD canceled the purchase reportedly on grounds that the aircraft was too expensive. However, informed sources told defenseworld.net that though the A330MRTT was ahead of the IL78 on several factors as outlined in the RFP, it had until then not received its full range of certifications, without which the Indian Air Force (IAF) would not have been able to operate it. Didier Vernet said that the A330 MRTT is “much better placed” to win the Indian bid as it has since acquired all the certifications and has been selected by several countries. A Russian source told Defenseworld.net that the IL78MKI being offered to India this time around was an improved version of what was proposed the last time.
“The IL78MKI is customized for India and contains several equipment specifically ordered by India including an Israeli designed refueling system”. The new IL78MKI will have advanced avionics and the latest generation communication system for tanker to fighter aircraft besides improved engines with better fuel burn rate. The fact that the IL78MKI was used as a test bed to prove the aerial refueling capabilities of the six contenders of the Indian MMRCA tender, establishes the credentials of the IL78, the source said adding that it is the only aircraft which has a proven track record of refueling the SU30MKI, the MiG29, the F-16, the F/A 18, the Dassault Mirage and Rafale, the Saab Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon. The A330MRTT has been proven only on the F-16 and the F/A 18. Meanwhile, an Airbus refueling aircraft and an F-16 fighter jet were reportedly damaged after the tanker lost part of its refueling boom over the Atlantic, media reports said. The cause of the accident which happened during a test by the Austrialian Department of Defence is under investigation. The reports quoted Jaime Perez-Guerra, an Airbus Military spokesman as stating, “it’s under investigation.