NEW DELHI: Following is the timeline of India's $10.4-billion tender for 126 advanced combat aircraft, a proposal originally mooted in 2000:
* 2000: Indian Air Force (IAF) conveys to defence ministry its interest in acquiring medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) to replace its ageing fleet of Soviet-era MiG-21s and because of delays in developing the indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA).
* 2001: IAF issues request for information (RFI) for 126 combat jets.
* 2003: IAF seeks defence ministry's permission to buy 50 more French Mirage-2000s to shore up the only MMRCAs in its fleet as a stopgap arrangement. The aircraft had been acquired in the mid-1980s.
* 2004: Defence ministry asks IAF to instead issue a larger MMRCA tender.
* 2005: Defence ministry issues initial MMRCA tender but withdraws it quickly even as it starts receiving responses from vendors.
* 2006: The then IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi, flags the dwindling squadron strength of the force. From a sanctioned strength of 39.5 combat squadrons, the IAF is down to 33 squadrons.
* August 2007: India issues the tender for 126 MMRCAs at an estimated cost of $10.4 billion (Rs 46,000 crore).
* February 2008: US majors Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Russia's United Aircraft Corporation, France's Dassault, European consortium EADS and Sweden's SAAB submit their bids.
* April 2009: Rumours afloat that Dassault and SAAB are out of the race.
* May 2009: Defence ministry says Dassault and SAAB still in contention.
* April 2010: IAF completes its flight and weapons evaluation of the six contenders on the basis of 643 parameters.
* December 2010: Offset proposals of contenders goes missing; later found on the roadside in south Delhi. The incident threatened to derail the tendering process.
* April 2011: India down-selects EADS and Dassault for the final leg of the contest, rejecting the other four contenders.
The deal is expected to be awarded to either EADS or Dassault by the end of this fiscal March 31, 2012.
Under the terms of purchase, the first 18 aircraft will come in a "fly-away" condition, with the remaining 108 to be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited under a transfer of technology agreement. The size of the contract could eventually go up to 200 aircraft as there is a provision for increasing the order by 50 percent without any price hike.
The contract includes an offsets clause under which the winning vendor will plough back 50 percent ($5 billion) of the deal amount back in India to energise its defence industry.
Nut graph on combat jet contenders
Following is a nut graph on the six combat jets that were in contention for an Indian order for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA), with the first two planes now having been down-selected:
EADS Cassidian: The Eurofighter Typhoon is a twin-engines, canard-delta wing aircraft, designed and built by a consortium of firms from Spain, Germany, Britain and Italy. The aircraft is the frontline fighter with the Royal Air Force, the German Luftwaffe, the Italian Air Force, the Spanish Air Force, the Austrian Air Force and the Royal Saudi Air Force.
Dassault Aviation: The Rafale is a twin-engined, delta-wing jet. The aircraft was first introduced in 2000 and since then is produced both for land-based use with the French Air Force and for carrier-based operations with the French Navy. Though it has been offered for exports, it is yet to bag any orders.
Boeing: The F/A-18 Super Hornet is a twin-engined fighter capable of both land and ship-based operations. Designed and initially produced by McDonnell Douglas, the Super Hornet first flew in 1995. Full-scale production began in September 1997 after the merger of McDonnell Douglas with Boeing the previous month. The Super Hornet entered service with the United States Navy in 1999.
Lockheed Martin: The US aviation major offered a customized version the F-16IN Super Viper, a fourth generation single-engined fighter jet. A low-end variant of this aircraft is in service with the Pakistan Air force. The F-16 is flown by 24 air forces worldwide.
SAAB: The JAS-39 Gripen fighter is a single-engined jet from the Swedish firm's stable. The aircraft is in service with the Swedish, Czech, Hungarian and the South African air forces. The Royal Thai Air Force has also ordered the plane.
United Aircraft Corporation: The Mikoyan MiG-35 is a production version of an upgraded twin-engined MiG-29 combat jet. The aircraft is not as yet operational.