Airbus wins Indian air refuelling tanker contract

European aircraft manufacturer Airbus said Monday that it has won a tender to supply India with six A330 air refuelling tankers, a deal potentially worth more than $1.0 billion (770 million euros).

"Airbus Military is pleased to confirm that it has been selected by the Government of India as the preferred bidder to supply its A330 MRTT Multi Role Tanker Transport to the Indian Air Force," an Airbus statement said.

A spokesman for Airbus Military, the group's defence division, declined to comment on the deal's value, which would have a catalogue price of $1.25-1.38 billion.

Airbus still has a way to go before it can take a signed contract to the bank however, as the development opened the door to a long process of negotiations between Delhi and the aircraft manufacturer.

As an example, the French company Dassault Aviation was chosen by India in January 2012 to supply 126 Rafale combat jets, but that deal has yet to be finalised.

Airbus Military chief executive Domingo Urena Raso was quoted as saying: "We are fully committed to the next stage of the negotiations, and ultimately to providing the IAF with what is unquestionably the most advanced tanker/transport aircraft flying and certified today."

Airbus had already won a contract to build air refuelling tankers for India, but that deal was cancelled owing to irregularities in the tender process.

This time around, Airbus was competing head-to-head with the Russian group Ilyushin, which has already supplied aircraft to India.

If the Airbus contract with India is finalised, it would mark the sixth country to buy or say it will buy the tankers.

The others are Australia, Britain, France, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

An industry source said that India might need many more than just six of the planes, meanwhile.

The A330 MRTT (multirole tanker transport) can supply two aircraft with fuel at the same time, and in the configuration now being used by the Australian air force, can carry 111 tonnes of fuel, 37 tonnes of material and 270 passengers.

The deal would be a welcome fillip to Airbus, which suffered a bitter defeat in the United States almost two years ago when arch rival Boeing won a US Air Force contract for 179 air refuelling tankers.

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