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Since April 2011, when the Indian Air Force (IAF) shortlisted the Eurofighter and Rafale for purchase, Swedish company Saab has believed its JAS-39 Gripen fighter was unfairly eliminated from that globally watched tender for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA). Similarly, US aerospace giant, Lockheed Martin, which had offered an F-16 Block 50/52 variant called the Super Viper, feels hard done by. Yet, one of these companies might still have the last laugh after the eventual MMRCA winner, Dassault of France, failed to conclude a contract for the Rafale.
The Gripen NG and the F-16 Block 70 - improved variants of the fighters Saab and Lockheed Martin had earlier offered - are front runners in a truncated replay of the MMRCA contest. Boeing, meanwhile, has repeated its offer of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. All three offers are couched in the rubric of "Make in India".
Of the original six vendors in the MMRCA race, only Russia's RAC MiG has faded away. Dassault continues negotiating with New Delhi, albeit only for 36 Rafales under a government-to-government sale. Eurofighter remains poised on the sidelines; offering to step in should negotiations with Dassault collapse.