* Eurofighter leading race for $10.4 bln contract
* Source says test flights expected to conclude by April
* India to order new refuelling ship from Finmeccanica
By Valentina Rusconi
ROME, Jan 22 The Eurofighter Typhoon is "leading
the race" to win a contract from the Indian government for 126
fighter jets, valued at around $10.4 billion, India's ambassador
to Italy said on Friday.
"We have shortlisted four to five countries, then the trial
process and evaluation will follow. Eurofighter is one of them,
in which Italy is involved, and it's leading the race,"
ambassador Arif Shahid Khan told Reuters after a meeting with a
senior aid to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Boeing's (BA.N) F/A-18 Super Hornet, France's Dassault
(AVMD.PA) Rafale, Lockheed Martin Corp's (LMT.N) F-16, Russia's
MiG-35, Sweden's Saab (SAABb.ST) JAS-39 Gripen and the
Eurofighter Typhoon, produced by a consortium of European
companies EAD.PA(BAES.L)SIFI.MI, are competing for the
Defence industry experts do not expect an immediate
A Eurofighter source said the test flights were expected to
finish by April, and a decision would follow.
He also said German President Horst Koehler would visit
India in early February to sign an agreement on defence,
security and technology.
India is one of the world's biggest arms importers, and the
government plans to spend more than $30 billion on defence
upgrades over the next five years to counter potential threats
from Pakistan and China. [ID:nDEL380118]
The ambassador said India would order from Italy's
Finmeccanica SIFI.MI a refuelling ship, following the purchase
of a similar vessel worth around $200 million. "We are really
satisfied," he said.
The ambassador said Berlusconi would visit India this year
and the two countries were discussing economic cooperation in
other fields, such as agriculture. He said discussions were also
underway for Alitalia to start flights between the two
(Editing by Rupert Winchester)