Boeing withdraws from Indian midair tanker tender

Thursday, January 20, 2011

NEW DELHI - Boeing has withdrawn from the midair tanker tender floated by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in September 2010.

That leaves only the European Airbus A330 MRTT and the Russian IL 78 in the fray for supplying six midair refuelers to the IAF, which may actually buy a few more aircraft on follow-on orders later.

At present, IAF flies six IL 78 tankers, which are doing well but are of old technology and IAF is looking for newer, better options. In fact, the Airbus 330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) had won the competition earlier but as it was regarded as too expensive, re-tendering was ordered.

Boeing has a new generation 767 under development but will not operationalise it until it gets the US Air Force’s order for 179 aircraft. The evaluation for that, against the EADS Airbus A 330 MRTT is still going on, although a decision is expected in the first half of this year.

Boeing Vice President for Defence, Space and Security in India Dr Vivek Lall told India Strategic defence magazine ( that Boeing had to withdraw as the last date for complying with the tender bid was Jan 12.

Dr Lall said: Only upon the outcome of the KC-X competition for replacement of US Air Force refueling takers will be able to fully determine our ability to participate in future international competitions. Boeing is committed to assist our international customers meet their military requirements but we are not in a position now to discuss any detail expressed by specific customers.”

However, he said, if the USAF accepted the Boeing 767 tanker and the IAF extended the date for the competition, “Boeing would be happy to take part.”

That does not seem likely though as the Indian Air Force is under a planned phase of transformation and further delay could upset the overall schedule. Midair tankers are required to extend the range of both combat and transport aircraft.

Notably, the Indian tankers are fitted with Israeli probes, and the tender, or the Request for Proposales (RfP), was also issued to the Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) just in case it could buy some aircraft and integrate its systems on board.

The Israeli response is not known.

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