The defence ministry has asked Eurofighter and French Dassault Aviation to extend validity of their commercial bids for the multi-billion dollar contract for 126 combat aircraft, sources said here on Wednesday night, in an indication they could be shortlisted for IAF’s mega deal.
However, defence ministry officials refused to divulge any details in this regard.
Sources in the two foreign firms said the defence ministry had sent a communication to them and that it significantly came on the eve of the expiry of commercial bids of defence majors who were in the race.
The sources said the ministry has written letters only to Eurofighter and Rafale to extend the validity of their commercial offers.
Eurofighter is built by a consortium of four countries--UK, Italy, Spain and Germany -- whereas the Rafale is a French aircraft developed by Dassault Aviation.
Alongwith these two fighters, four other aircraft--the American F-16 and F/A-18, Russian MiG 35 and Swedish Saab Gripen-- vied with each other in the five-year long tender for the much awaited deal.
Following the defence ministry communication, the remaining four companies will now not be allowed to extend the validity of their offers and their bids will expire tomorrow.
The Indian Air Force(IAS) had tested the six defence majors in the fray on 643 parameters and marked them on the basis of their performance in the Field Evaluation Trials (FET).
At this year’s Aero India show in February, the IAF Air Chief Marshal P V Naik had announced that the commercial negotiations for the project would begin shortly and the deal was expected to be signed shortly.
The process of evaluation was concluded early last year and a report submitted to the defence ministry.
The IAF chief had also warned that the deal could be delayed if the losing contenders in the fray decided to go against the government decision in courts or the CVC.
The deal was hit by controversy after an important file related to the offsets was recovered from a roadside in the Khel Gaon locality here.