India in final stages of deal to buy jet trainers
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India in final stages of deal to buy jet trainers

Thursday, 24 July 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: The Indian government Thursday said it was in the final stages of a long-delayed deal to purchase jet trainers for the Indian Air Force (IAF), with the contract likely to go to Britain's BAe Systems.

"A proposal to acquire the advanced jet trainers (AJTs) is before the Cabinet Secretariat. We have finalised last action on the part of the (defence) ministry to procure the AJTs," Defence Minister George Fernandes said in the Lok Sabha.

The proposal to purchase AJTs for the air force has been pending for over 15 years, but it has gained urgency in recent years after a spate of crashes involving rookie pilots being trained on the ageing Russian-made MiG-21.

The MiG-21s are used by IAF for training purposes in the absence of an AJT.

"There is only one point to be sorted out. We have (sought) a reply to that one point from the British company about the particular AJT," Fernandes said during question hour following a query by National Conference president Omar Abdullah.

"If (the British company's reply) comes today, our action will be tomorrow. If it comes during the course of this week, then the action will be next week," the defence minister said.

Fernandes did not name the British company, but BAe Systems is the only British firm that bid for the AJT contract and it has been considered the frontrunner for over a decade.

The deal, which envisages the supply of 66 Hawk AJTs to IAF, is estimated to be worth over a billion pounds.

The deal with BAe has been held up by the fact that the Hawk uses some U.S.-made components and the Indian government did not want the maintenance of the jets to be affected by any future American sanctions.

In a written statement, Fernandes said various AJTs had been examined by India but "no contract has been finalised as yet". He said it would not be possible to lay down a timeframe for "such a major procurement project".

Requests for proposals for AJTs were issued in 1986, 1992 and 1999 to the two short-listed vendors, BAe for the Hawk jets and France's Dassault Aviation for the Alphajet aircraft, Fernandes said.

Source: IANS
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