New Delhi: Hoping to finalise the multi- billion dollar combat aircraft deal by the year-end, Indian Air Force on Thursday said the commercial bids of two shortlisted vendors in the M-MRCA tender would be opened by middle of next month.
   
"We have a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council on October 7 where some of the issues are going to be discussed. Once those issued are cleared, hopefully by the middle of month, we should be in a position to open the bids," Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne said here.
   
He was asked to comment on the acquisition schedule of these aircraft which are expected to be inducted in the IAF by 2014.
   
Browne was talking to reporters on the sidelines of the Sixth International Conference on Energising Indian Aerospace Industry organised by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
   
Earlier addressing the conference, the IAF Chief said, "We are in final stages of this process (of signing the contract for M-MRCA) and (it will be done) hopefully by the end of the year."
   
On the offset value of the deal, he said, "Offsets for this program amount to Rs 20,000 crore plus and these are going to be in service for over a period of 13 years."
   
To a query on comparison between Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and M-MRCA, he said, "These are two different kinds of aeroplanes. M-MRCA does not have stealth features and super cruise capability while FGFA has all that."
   
FGFA has recess armament base where all the missiles and weapons are located inside the aircraft, which gives it a certain amount of stealth potential, he said.
   
India is developing the FGFA as a joint venture with Russia. On reported intrusion by Chinese helicopters into the Indian territory in Ladakh last month, Air Chief Marshal N A K
Browne said he had spoken to ITBP Director General Ranjit Sinha on the issue.
   
"I spoke to the ITBP Chief who has just taken over and he is aware of that (the reported intrusion) and they are taking some action. We had a meeting, and he in fact mentioned this incident. They are taking some action," he said.
   
He was asked if the government had taken up the issue with the Chinese authorities.
   
Meanwhile, replying to the same query, Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju said a mechanism has been established to look into incidents of transgressions and intrusions on the borders.
   
"Whatever has happened or not happened, I am sure it will be looked into. There is an established mechanism for transgressions and intrusions that are happening, and the mechanism is there at the border, I think it will look into the matter," Raju said.
   
The incident reportedly took place in August when two Chinese helicopters with seven to eight troopers on board, flew into Indian territory along the Line of actual Control (LAC) in Chumar area of Ladakh and damaged some bunkers.

Addressing the Conference, Raju said economic development in the country and Asia will drive the growth in Indian aerospace industry and factors like domestic demand, defence offsets and information technology prowess will act as important key drivers.
   
"There exists a lot of potential for Indian industries, not only in the defence sector but also in civil aerospace sector. Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul activities will further propel the growth of aerospace industry," he said.
   
Stressing upon developing indigenous capabilities in areas of defence avionics, ACM Browne said the country cannot continue to rely on imports for long.
   
"If we keep relying on imports, there may come a time when we would be rated as second or third grade powers, because no one will share their best technology with us," he said.
   
IAF expects lifelong commitment from the Indian industries for its short and long term requirements, we cannot keep relying on the foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) forever, he said.
   
Emphasizing the importance of Indian private sector industry and its participation in the major upcoming projects, Browne said, "IAF expects larger participation in the Multi-Role Transport Aircraft (MTA) programme."

(Agencies)