With IAF Planning to Lease Mid-air Refuellers Airbus Emerges Front Runner

Aero India 2021

Bengaluru: With the Indian Air Force looking for boosting its strength and as part of this exercise is planning to lease midair refuellers, the front runner appears to be Airbus’ A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft which is likely to be taken on 10-year lease period.

According to sources in the defence and security establishment, the IAF is looking at a 10-year lease period with the European aerospace major with the front runner for the lease is the MRTT and not Boeing’s KC-46 tanker.

India’s refueller fleet currently comprises six Russian IIyushin-78 tankers, first inducted in 2003, which are facing maintenance and serviceability issues.

Last month, the IAF had sought financial quotes from both Airbus and Boeing.

This had led to speculation that India could end up leasing three tankers and will go in for a large order of six refuellers based on the experience of using them.

However, sources indicated that Boeing was approached primarily to understand the pricing mechanism.

This will be the second major leasing of a defence system by the Indian armed forces since November last year, when the Navy leased two Sea Guardian drones — unarmed versions of the deadly Predator series — from US firm General Atomics.

Incidentally, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat had flown in an MRTT last month during the joint air exercise between India and France held in Rajasthan.

The French have also offered six A330 MRTT aircraft to the IAF on a government-to-government basis.

The Narendra Modi government has allowed the armed forces to procure military equipment on lease, under the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020.

According to sources, leasing significantly brings the cost down and also does away with life cycle cost.

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