India has terminated the a 2 billion dollar contract for six multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft with Airbus Defense and Space. This comes as no surprise for observers as the deal was troubled by objections over its high costs. Many officials were also skeptical considering protracted inquiries against the European consortium in India dating back to the 1970's.
Meanwhile, a Member of Parliament wrote to the Defense Ministry against the deal, as a result of which the case was sent to the Law Ministry for an opinion. In April 2015, the Government referred the deal to the Defense Ministry's Vigilance Department for clearance after ascertaining the status of the old cases against the consortium. However, it was found that only one such case against the consortium had been closed due to lack of evidence and that the other inquiries were pending.
This is the second MRTT aircraft global tender to be cancelled by the Ministry of Defense since 2006.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) already operates several Il-78MKI tankers delivered in 2003-2006. Sources said that six Il-78MKI will be upgraded to the Il-78MKI-90 MRTT standard while another Il-76MD transport aircraft will be converted into an Il-78MKI-90. The Ministry of Defense also wants to upgrade Il-76MDs to the Il-76MD-90 standard, which is likely to be part of the yet to be signed contract.