It's official! France's Dassault Aviation Rafale and the European consortium's Eurofighter Typhoon move to the next level on the Indian Air Force M-MRCA fighter selection process. Both companies have confirmed that their programme teams have been asked to be at the MoD/Air HQ tomorrow for a meeting where the process will be taken forward. While the two companies have been, in effect, asked to extend the validity of their commercial bids, the other four contenders -- Boeing F/A-18, Lockheed-Martin's F-16, UAC's MiG-35 and Saab's Gripen -- haven't received a message or a letter. This is, in effect, the downselect that you've been hearing about so much. More shortly. [Update @11.59PM - Gripen acknowledges elimination from the competition - PDF].
It must be said that it was TimesNOW's Srinjoy Chowdhry who first reported that the Rafale and Typhoon led the competition, followed by several posts here on Livefist which suggested that the two big European twins were likely to make the semi-final cut. Today's story about the hard downselect broke on Stratpost.
What has happened today is basically scenario 2 in my post from earlier today. The MoD's decision to issue requests for bid validity extension to only two of the six companies -- and by default allow the commercial bids of the other four to expire tomorrow -- could be problematic, but this isn't something the IAF and MoD haven't accounted for. This could be the most interesting phase of the competition, since the four contenders knocked out of the fray will be wondering why in hell the government waited till the end to shaft them.
Livefist has reported extensively on the apprehensions that could guide the Indian government's final decision against the Americans and Russians. Let's just remind ourselves, however, that is a down-select. The process of selection is not nearly over. This is, however, the first substantive decision that has been taken in the competition, and the only one so far that narrows the board. Stay tuned for what promises to be a huge amount of action from here on out. Oh, and here's a picture of the news breaking on Headlines Today's ticker earlier this evening.
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