Feb. 9 - A $20-billion dogfight is taking place as Britain's defense company BAE Systems looks at all options to win back a fighter jet tender with the Indian air force. India announced last week it favored a bid from France's Dassault aviation. Joel Flynn reports.
It flies at over 1,500 miles per hour and has been called the complete combat aircraft. But the Indians don't want it. The consortium behind the Eurofighter Typhoon were ready for take off last month on an air defence contract worth $20 billion. That was until French company Dassault swooped in and beat them to it, winning the chance to sell 126 of their Rafale aircraft. But the consortium -- made up of the German and Spanish branches of EADS, Britain's BAE Systems and Italy's Finmeccanica -- have not yet had their hopes grounded. BAE's CEO Ian King this week said "all options are still on the table", suggesting the price for the Eurofighter contract may come down. IHS Jane's consultant Endre Lunde says France may still have the edge, with the transfer of nuclear technology between them and India perhaps the most crucial part of the deal. (SOUNDBITE) (English) IHS JANE'S CONSULTANT, ENDRE LUNDE, SAYING: "France, with it's experience in this field, could be very important to them in terms of helping to develop that technology, developing that capability and not least building this in India. So both on a civilian side and a defence side, I think there's significant potential to develop the relationship between India and France further." Precedent is not on the French side however. The Rafale has lost a series of contests to U.S. competition, while in 2009 French President Nicolas Sarkozy prematurely announced that a sale of Rafales to Brazil was imminent, only to see talks drag on for another two years. (SOUNDBITE) (English) IHS JANE'S CONSULTANT, ENDRE LUNDE, SAYING: "France has been close before, and it has not turned out in the end, one example being the UAE, which was predicted to be a customer of the Rafale. That fell through, and it's now in negotiations with Eurofighter." So though the French may have India's fighter contract in their sights, the dogfight over who will ultimately prevail could yet produce more twists. Joel Flynn, Reuters