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Airbus Military looking to supply refuellers to Air Force

Our Bureau

Bangalore, Jan. 21

European defence consortium Airbus Military says it is banking on bagging the contract to supply six mid-air refuelling aircraft to the Air Force.

The A330 MRTT (multi-role tanker transport) plane is its entry and the company would make its offset proposals in April, Mr Didier Vernet, Head of Market Development, said at a news conference here on Friday.

IAF issued a revised tender for the refuellers last September. The bid first called in 2006 was estimated at $1 billion or around Rs 4,500 crore. Airbus Military and Russia's Ilyushin are in the reckoning for the contract. IAF plans to add more air tankers to its fleet of six IL-78s supplied by old partner Ilyushin. Refuellers allow fighters to fly longer and wider.

Offsets apply to the nation's military purchase orders that exceed Rs 300 crore; the winning company has to generate at least 30 per cent of the order value as export or business orders back to Indian industries.

Airbus is developing a heavy lift aircraft for troop and cargo movement called A400M. Mr Vernet, who heads market development for the A400M, said the seven European partner countries had ordered 180 of these planes, besides Malaysia seeking four.

The plane has made its first flight but is expected to be ready in three years.

With over a 1,000 military transport planes currently flying across the world and expected to get old in the coming years, the A400M would have a ready market for half of these replacements, Mr Vernet reckoned. It could be quickly converted into a mid-air refueller for fighters and large planes.

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