Twice short-listed and twice rejected over cost concerns, Airbus has started fresh push for a deal for Six Airbus A330 MRTT aerial refueller with India after the tender was refloated again for the third time earlier this year but this time Airbus is likely to get some serious competition from its arch-rival in the commercial passenger jet business which was absent in the previous two tenders but is likely to make entry of the first time this year.
Boeing is pitching India with its Boeing KC-46 Pegasus military aerial refueling and strategic military transport aircraft developed by Boeing from its 767 jet airliner. Boeing previously offered India its KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueller under the U.S. Department of Defense’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program which facilitates sales of U.S. arms, defense equipment, defense services, and military training to foreign governments but that was not accepted by India.
In the previous two tenders, only A330 MRTT and IL-78 were the main bidders but IL-78 which was a cheaper option was rejected due to low serviceability issues of the IL-78 fleet already in the IAF. Indian Air Force inducted its first aerial refueling aircraft in 2003 with the arrival of the first IL-78 aircraft from Russia and presently has six aerial refuellers.
Airbus A330-300 is a bigger aircraft with better load carrying capacity and also comes equipped with a more powerful engine but smaller Boeing KC-46 Pegasus based on 767 jet airliner is much more economical and also cheaper then A330. Since the A330 is a bigger plane, it costs more to fly than the 767 and has a lower operating cost but suffers from a range penalty.
While Airbus A330 is more modern and equipped with modern avionics and comes with a true glass cockpit but 767 still a cross between old and new modern avionics and doesn’t come with true glass cockpit layout. Boeing KC-46 Pegasus was selected by the United States Air Force (USAF) as the winner in the KC-X tanker competition to replace older Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers and since it is backed by USAF with orders of 179 aircraft, economic of scale of production will be an advantage to the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus.