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Asia

Eurofighter fighting strong in bid to win India

During his two-day visit to India, German defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has made a stop at the Aero India show, where 21 German aerospace companies are exhibiting.

German Defense Minister, Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg at Aero India in Bangalore, India

German Defense Minister, Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg at Aero India in Bangalore, India

Defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who is leading a high-profile 40-member delegation to showcase Germany's aerospace industry met up with Indian defense minister A K Antony and Indian Chief of Air Staff PV Naik.

Europe's Eurofighter Typhoon is a strong contender for the Indian Air Force's $10 billion fighter-jet contract for 126 Multi Medium-Role Combat Aircrafts (MMRCA). It is among six companies in the race that has entered the final stages.

The Eurofighter is a joint European project and it is relying on a joint political push for sales by four countries — Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain.

Eurofighter hopeful

Eurofighter Vice President and Head of the India Campaign Directorate Matthias Schmidlin, who is in Bangalore for the air-show, said the aircraft is a superior candidate, adding, "I think after the very thorough and professional assessment conducted by the Indian Air Force, our product is the most adapted and capable aircraft in the campaign. Firstly, because of the product itself. We are offering a quite unique industrial proposal and we have full support of four European nations and industrial players."

A Eurofighter jet shows off at Aero India

A Eurofighter jet shows off at Aero India

With an aim to achieve an edge over its competitors, Cassidian, the defense and security division of European Aeronautic Defense & Space (EADS), has also set up an engineering center for its military aircraft, defense avionics and homeland security systems in Bangalore to develop products for the Indian market.

Pitching hard to grab lucrative defense deals worth billions of dollars, Germany has already offered India provisions for forgoing an end-user monitoring agreement. It has also offered the transfer of technology in a joint production of military hardware for third-party sale in future.

A show of good ties

Ummu Salma Bava, a foreign policy and European affairs expert at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, said Guttenberg’s visit at this point was a reaffirmation of the strategic ties between both countries.

"I think the visit of the defense minister for the Aero Show reconfirms one of the major aspects of the strategic partnership which has also been reinforced since 2006 when an MOU was signed in the military field as well." Bava added, "the Aero Show offers the perfect opportunity for Germany to showcase what it can offer India at this point, and for India to decide how it can best make use of what is available."

The European designed Eurofighter is a strong contender for the Indian Air Force's fighter-jet contract

The European designed Eurofighter is a strong contender for the Indian Air Force's fighter-jet contract

Good partners

Besides the fighter-jet contract, German and European firms are also eyeing other defense contracts such as the one for 197 light combat helicopters for the Indian Army worth $600 million, for six mid-air refueller aircrafts worth $2 billion, and for six submarines worth $11 billion.

Schmidlin believes there is "a clear wish from Europe to engage in a deeper relationship with India. Europe has lot to offer and it is not just the Eurofighter. Europe is ready to share technology and competence to support India’s lines for aerospace and defense."

In the field of defense, Germany and India have set up a number of working groups ranging from strategic and policy matters to defense technology and defense business cooperation.

Author: Murali Krishnan (New Delhi)
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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