We're coming down to the wire.
In India, the nation's air force has completed "evaluation" of the half-dozen fighter planes it's currently considering to update its aging, Soviet-era fleet. Topping the running are two jets manufactured by U.S. defense contractors: Boeing's
Still, the competition is hot on their heels, as Russian Aircraft Corp continues to push the MiG-35 option, Saab (they're "Born from jets," dontcha know?) fields a Gripen, Eurofighter a Typhoon, and Dassault Aviation re-enters the competition with its Rafale fighter jet.
So why do I say that Boeing and Lockheed top this competition? They've already racked up a win apiece in India. Two years ago, Lockheed broke into the subcontinental market with a contract to sell the Indians a half-dozen C130-J military transports -- a huge, pioneering win for the contractor and its subcontractor Honeywell
Meanwhile, the competition is doing a passable imitation of the gang that couldn't shoot straight.Russia may have shot itself in the foot by trying to up the price on an separate existing deal to sell India a couple hundred Sukhois (bad form, tovarich). And Dassault nearly got itself booted from the competition entirely for "noncompliance with some operational requirements".
Eurofighter lost a similar competition to Lockheed by default in Norway back in 2007; later, Lockheed beat out Saab, the last man standing. So while I concede that this deal is hardly "in the bag" for the U.S. contestants, I do believe the odds are on the American companies' side.
But this story gets even better. In addition to the $10 billion that India is reportedly ready to pay for the 126 fighters on order, the country is also shopping for another $2 billion worth of military helicopters: 22 combat choppers, and 15 transports.
Here, competition comes from a different set of foreign rivals. But I do suspect that if the Indians like what they see in U.S. fighter jets, they'll likely go with the "known quantity" and choose a Boeing Chinook or United Technologies'
Seems to me that India's saying: Come on over, America. The water's fine. Defense investors should heed the call.
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