India has selected the European Airbus-330 MRTT (Multi-Role Tanker Transport) over the Russian Ilyushin-78 Mid-Air Refuelling Aircraft in a Rs 8,500-crore contract. Defence ministry sources on Thursday said the European Aeronautics Defence and Space Company (EADS) "is now being called for the final commercial negotiations" for acquisition of six Airbus-330 MRTT tankers.
Both the four-engine IL-78 and the two-engine Airbus-330 had passed the extensive field evaluation trials conducted by IAF but the latter emerged the cheaper option in the subsequent commercial evaluation. "Though the two commercial bids were opened earlier, the final costing last week put the Airbus-330 as the L-1 (lowest bidder) on account of life-cycle costs," said a source.
An artist impression of Airbus-330 MRTT in IAF Colours ( Image Courtesy - airbus )
IAF, which already operates six IL-78s since 2003-04, is looking to induct the six new tankers or "force-multipliers" from 2017 onwards to further enhance its "strategic reach" capabilities. Only a handful of countries operate such tankers, which with their "booms" can refuel fighters and other aircraft in mid-air to virtually double their radius of operations. IAF's Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, which have a cruising speed range of 3,200-km, for instance, can strike high-value targets deep inside China with in-flight refuelling.
The MRTT (multi-role tanker transport), based on the Airbus-330 wide-bodied commercial airliner, can carry 110 tonnes of fuel to "`top-off" several fighters simultaneously through its "aerial refuelling boom system". EADS touts its tanker as the fastest one in the business because it can transfer 4,600 litres per minute, greatly reducing the refuelling operation time.
News Courtesy - Rajat Pandit @ timesofindia.indiatimes.com