New Delhi: The race for the multi-billion dollar contract for 126 combat aircraft for the Indian Air Force has entered the final phase. Defence Ministry sources have told CNN-IBN that the Eurofighter consortium and the French Dassault Aviation which makes Rafale aircraft are in the fray while the other the American, Swedish and Russian aircraft are out of the over $10 billion dollar Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) fighter competition.
The Eurofighter consortium and the Dassault are only companies that have been asked to extend the commercial bids for their aircraft. The bids for all six competing aircraft expired on Thursday.
The IAF has shortlisted the Eurofighter and the Rafale aircraft for the MMRCA selection and commercial negotiations will get underway only on these two aircraft. All the other competitors - American Lockheed F-16 and Boeing Super Hornet, Sweden's Gripen and the Russian MiG-35 are out of the race.
Sources in the two foreign firms said the Defence Ministry had sent a communication to them and that it significantly came on the eve of the expiry of commercial bids of defence majors who were in the race.
The sources said the Ministry has written letters only to Eurofighter and Rafale to extend the validity of their commercial offers.
Eurofighter is built by a consortium of four countries - UK, Italy, Spain and Germany - whereas the Rafale is a French aircraft developed by Dassault Aviation.
Along with these two fighters, four other aircraft - the American F-16 and F/A-18, Russian MiG 35 and Swedish Saab Gripen - vied with each other in the five-year long tender for the much awaited deal.
Following the Defence Ministry communication, the remaining four companies will now not be allowed to extend the validity of their offers and their bids will expire on Thursday.
The IAF had tested the six defence majors in the fray on 643 parameters and marked them on the basis of their performance in the Field Evaluation Trials (FET).
At the 2011 Aero India show in February, the IAF chief Air Chief Marshal PV Naik had announced that the commercial negotiations for the project would begin shortly and the deal was expected to be signed shortly.
The process of evaluation was concluded early last year and a report submitted to the Defence Ministry.
The IAF chief had also warned that the deal could be delayed if the losing contenders in the fray decided to go against the Government decision in courts or the CVC.
The deal was hit by controversy after an important file related to the offsets was recovered from a roadside in the Khelgaon locality in New Delhi.