UPDATE 1-AIRSHOW-Airbus keen to sell army planes to India

Last Updated: Thu, Feb 07, 2013 13:50 hrs

* Awaits chance to market C295 tactical airlifter

* Sees final aerial tanker deal with India this year

* A400M to be delivered to France in May-June

By A. Ananthalakshmi

BANGALORE, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Europe's Airbus wants to sell its C295 military transport aircraft to India, an Airbus Military executive said on Thursday, adding that the company was awaiting a request for proposals from the government.

"We are very keen to see the RFP so we can get our proposal in there," said Kieran Daly, press manager for Airbus Military, at the Aero India air show in Bangalore.

The C-295 is a twin-engined Spanish-built tactical transport aircraft designed to carry 71 people or nine tonnes of cargo.

It competes in a growing market for aircraft designed for rough air strips with Alenia C-27J, made by a unit of Italy's Finmeccanica.

Airbus is also optimistic about finalising a contract this year to sell Airbus aerial refueling tankers to India, Daly told Reuters.

Airbus said last month it had beaten Russian competition to be selected as the preferred bidder to supply six A330 aerial refueling tankers to India, paving the way for exclusive talks between Airbus Military and the Indian government for a deal reportedly valued at around $1.25 billion.

"Hopefully the final contract negotiations will begin in the next few weeks. We are optimistic we will have a contract within the year," Daly said.

India has been the world's biggest arms importer in recent years, and plans to spend around $100 billion over the next 10 years in upgrading its mostly Soviet-era military hardware.

Daly also said Airbus could deliver its long-delayed A400M military airlifter to its first customer, France, in May.

Asked when the handover would take place, he said, "Probably May (or) could be June. We had said earlier it will be in the second quarter."

Developed at a cost of 20 billion euros, Europe's military transport and heavy cargo plane has been hit by a five-year delay and cost overruns that led to a multinational bailout.

Airbus, a unit of European aerospace group EADS, has begun low-level discussions aimed at promoting the aircraft to India and hopes eventually to sell it to the United States.

"We think the A400M will be of interest to the Indian Air Force in due course," Daly said.

"We are very confident the U.S. will buy the aircraft one way or another. But it could take years, not months. It will take a really long time."

Airbus lost a $35 billion contest in 2011 to supply aerial tankers to the U.S. Air Force after a major duel with Boeing.

Analysts say the company is betting that recently launched plans to open a commercial jet assembly plant in Alabama will create both the industrial base and political support needed to support sales of aircraft to the U.S. military in the future.

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