What has been stated publicly and has been rued for years, in private, in the defense establishment on rethink of the L1 concept in defense procurement under which contracts are awarded only to the lowest bidder. Army chief Gen M.M. Naravane recently called for changes in the system and said that the L1 rider also means India is denied the chance of acquiring more capable systems than a Request for Proposal (RFP) originally aims for. Such systems cannot be bought because their costs are higher than what the Services seek. The requirements are formulated years before the systems actually start coming in and, at times, the technology jumps manyfold, especially when it concerns electronic warfare.

Not so long ago when India’s ADA had floated tenders for a new high thrust engine to power its then proposed Tejas MkII aircraft. American multinational conglomerate General Electric offered its GE F414 engines and the EuroJet Turbo GmbH consortium offered its Eurojet EJ200 engine.

Then IAF had wanted to go for Eurojet EJ200 engine due to the previous American regime’s sanction on the LCA-Tejas program that saw GE being prevented from supplying spares and components for the F-404 engines that were powering Tejas Mk1 Prototypes and also due to strategic calculations that had favored European engines for the Tejas MkII program.

When ADA opened bids, GE was declared L1 and it is said that EuroJet Turbo offer was marginally higher but it had agreed to match GE’s price if given a chance. But the strict tender requirements could have meant that it had to be re-tendered and bids invited again which ADA was not in favor of and soon contract was awarded to the GE.

India’s Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) had selected 99 F414 GE fighter jet engines to power the Mk II version of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) for the Indian Air Force way back in 2010 while Tejas MkII program evolved from being just a re-engineering program to Medium class fighter jets, no efforts were made to go back and buy Eurojet EJ200 engines for the program.

The US has yet again warned India that it could face sanctions over it acquiring five batteries of the Russian Almaz-Antei S-400 Triumf systems and if the supply of F414-GE-INS6 engines are delayed or stopped it will affect not only the Tejas MkII program but also AMCA and TEDBF program which could delay the whole program for years if not by decade.

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