Saturday, 15 August 2009

Duel in the sky: Testing the MMRCAs and rating their chances




Photo 1: An aerial shot of Leh airfield. The fighter pens can be clearly seen.




Photo 2: The Gripen NG fighter, perhaps the contender with the best chance in the MMRCA competition.




Photo 3: (courtesy Boeing) Two F/A-18s, carrying out air-to-air refuelling over the United States.



Photo 4: The Dassault Rafale, which is the only MMRCA contender never to have flown in India.





by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 15th August 09

Over the preceding weeks, two Indian Air Force aces have busied themselves with what might well be the world’s most expensive video game: sitting at a simulator in the US and learning to fly one of the world’s most advanced fighters: Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet. After the simulator came an even greater adrenaline rush: strapping into a real Super Hornet, gunning its twin F-414 turbofan engines into a deafening roar and hurtling into the sky at speeds touching 2000 kmph.

But this was no game. Through the coming fortnight, those pilots will test-fly the Super Hornet in India, scrutinising every aspect of its performance to decide whether it meets the IAF requirements for a Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) to defend Indian skies, and support Indian ground troops, over the next four decades.

There are six contenders for this massive Indian tender for 126 medium fighters, an order worth some $11 billion dollars. Besides Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin has offered the F-16IN Super Viper; there’s the MiG-35 from Russia’s RAC MiG; the Rafale, offered by French company, Dassault; the Gripen NG, from Sweden’s Saab; and the Eurofighter Typhoon offered by a four-nation European consortium.

Over the next 8 months four IAF pilots will fly and fire all six fighters to evaluate which of them meet --- in every way --- the stringent requirements spelt out in the tender. This duel has been in the making for a full 8 years. That’s how long it has taken India’s notoriously sluggish Defence Ministry to frame its requirements, issue a global tender, and do a paper evaluation of the six responses that were received.

Now the ball is in the IAF’s court; it is time to see how the aircraft perform in the air. Being tested first, over the next two months, will be the two American fighters and the Russian Mig-35. Then, after a five-month winter break, the three European aircraft will be put through their paces.

The world’s toughest testing ground

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has assembled a team of its hottest top guns for evaluating the six fighters in the fray. Overseeing the entire testing process will be Air Commodore Rakesh Dhir, the Principal Director, Air Staff Requirements at IAF Headquarters. He will have two separate teams to do the actual flight-testing. One will test the two US fighters --- the F/A-18 and the F-16IN --- and the Russian MiG-35. The other team will be responsible for evaluating the three European aircraft: the Gripen, the Rafale, and the Eurofighter.

These teams will vie to uphold India’s reputation as the world’s toughest testing ground for military equipment. Each of the six fighters will fly in three types of terrain: hot and humid Bangalore, the desert heat of Jaisalmer, and the freezing high altitude desert of Ladakh. Any failure anywhere could signal the end of a campaign that will set back each of the contenders around $25-30 million.

Two Boeing F/A-18 will land this weekend at Bangalore, the home of India’s secretive flight testing agency, the Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment. Like Boeing, each contending company plans to bring in at least two fighters, in case of technical problems. Accompanying the fighters will be fully equipped maintenance teams to iron out niggles daily, after the Indian test pilots finish throwing their fighters around the sky.

Jaisalmer: heat and dust

After the testing in Bangalore, each team will travel for two days to Jaisalmer to test aircraft performance in the desert heat. During the Jaisalmer leg, each contender will also drop unguided bombs at a ground target placed in the Pokhran Range. But the really high-tech weaponry --- guided by radar, infrared or laser --- will be tested in each aircraft’s home base. Switching on airborne radar is a strict no-no when there is the remotest possibility of it being recorded by a foreign country. An aircraft’s radar signal is as unique to it as a fingerprint is to an individual. Every major air force, India’s included, maintains a worldwide “library” of radar signals; aircraft in those libraries can be quickly identified whenever they switch on their radar.

But the sting has been taken out of the desert trials; the summer is practically over. Months of MoD inactivity, caused by the general elections, has resulted in “hot weather” trials being scheduled in a balmy 35-40 degrees Centigrade, rather than the searing 50 degree heat of a real Jaisalmer summer. Officials from Eurofighter, which sailed through summer trials in the Saudi Arabian desert, grumble that the MoD lost an opportunity to discover the contenders vulnerabilities.

Ladakh: hot and high

From Jaisalmer, the fighters head for what could be the trickiest part of the trials: the “Hot and High” trials at the spectacular Leh airfield, in Ladakh. On the face of it, there isn’t much to do in Leh: each fighter must land with a specified load of weapons and fuel; switch off its engines and systems; the pilot must alight and do a quick visual check of his aircraft, during which the cold starts to seep into the aircraft components; then after getting back inside, he must start up the fighter’s engines and systems, without external help, and then take off.

Sounds simple! But this is the phase that is giving the contenders nightmares. At 10,682 feet, which is the altitude of Leh airfield, oxygen levels are so low that there is a real danger of the aircraft engines not starting up after they are switched off. And, once started, the oxygen-starved engines will strain to lift the fighters off that short airfield, even with a reduced payload that would be child’s play at sea level.

The testing teams: IAF top guns

A specially selected IAF test pilot of the rank of Group Captain will head each of the two test teams. He will actually fly each of the three fighters that he is responsible for evaluating. Flying in tandem with him will be another junior pilot; it will quickly become clear whether the fighter can be handled comfortably by a less experienced pilot. Each team will also include a clutch of technicians: an avionics system engineer to check high-tech gadgetry like the on-board electronic warfare equipment; a flight test engineer for performance related issues; and a maintenance engineer to observe how much maintenance each fighter needs before and after each sortie.

Making up the rest of each 8-10 person team will be: a logistician to evaluate how easily the spare parts and consumables can be kept flowing; technicians from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, where the fighter will eventually be built; and officials from certification and quality assurance agencies.

Who wins, who loses?

The MoD rulebook that governs defence purchases --- the Defence Procurement Policy of 2008 --- reduces the medium fighter competition to three simple steps. Firstly, the IAF specifies exactly the performance it wants from its proposed medium fighter. Next, it flies and evaluates all the aircraft on offer to see which ones meet all those requirements; and finally, the MoD buy the cheapest of those that qualify.

The most challenging of these steps is the first. Each detail of a fighter’s performance --- the runway length it must take off in; its rate of climb; turning radius; maximum and minimum speeds; range of operation; the weapons payload, its radar pickup; and dozens of similar parameters --- must be painstakingly quantified. Once all those are down in black and white, Step 2 becomes easy: the IAF test pilots fly each aircraft, checking each parameter one by one to see whether it matches up to what the IAF has laid down. The fighters that fail to meet the bill are eliminated from contention.

But there’s a hitch in the medium fighter competition, a problem of plenty! If the aircraft companies are to be believed, there’s a good possibility that all six aircraft might qualify. That would make the price the final determinant. The cheapest aircraft --- with costs calculated over its entire life of 30-40 years --- will walk away with the order.

This situation has arisen because the IAF has --- to use an automobile analogy --- set out to buy a Maruti-type car, but invited Rolls Royce, Jaguar, BMW and Audi to the bidding, along with Maruti and Hyundai. Four of the fighters in the fray (F/A-18, MiG-35, Eurofighter and Rafale) are expensive, two-engine powerhouses in the 25-30 tonne range. The other two (F-16IN and Gripen) are single-engine aircraft and, therefore, lighter (15-20 tonnes) and cheaper. And since avionics, sensors, radars and missiles are compact and light, the single-engine fighters are almost as combat-capable as their bigger rivals.

Experts agree that if the MoD plays by the rules, the Swedish Gripen --- the lightest and apparently cheapest contender --- will walk away with the contract. The single-engine F-16IN may be very close behind.

The superior range and weapons payload of the heavier fighters will earn them no brownie points for being far better than the tender requirements. To return to the automobile analogy, if the buyer specifies a top speed of at least 100 kmph, the Jaguar and the Audi get no credit for clocking twice that speed. If the Maruti can clock 100 kmph, it will be selected being the cheapest.

But the vendors fielding the twin-engine behemoths are confident about their chances. Admitting that their purchase price may be higher, they declare that when the “Cost of Ownership” is calculated over 30-40 years, their lower maintenance and spare parts costs, and higher aircraft availability will tilt the economics in their favour.

And Eurofighter chief, Bernhard Gerwert, told Business Standard in Delhi last week that superlative flying and combat performance would definitely count. He said, “The feedback that we have gotten after meetings in Delhi with the MoD and the IAF is that they will test more than just compliance with the tender. The IAF will take into account the performance excellence of each aircraft.”

The IAF, however, flatly refutes this. Senior officers say there are no extra points for exceeding the requirements by, say, 50%. Testing will be confined to a “Compliance Matrix”, with a box being ticked alongside each performance parameter in which an aircraft measures up to the required specifications.

Says a senior officer, “We don’t compare the aircraft with each other. We compare the aircraft with the tender requirements, filling in a Compliance Matrix”.

Amidst this uncertainty, and with billions at stake, the aerospace corporations have launched a media blitz to harness public and political opinion. Journalists, astronauts, corporate honchos, medal-winning athletes and politicians have in turn been taken up for high-profile joyrides. NDTV anchor, Vishnu Som, has flown co-pilot on four of the six aircraft, more than any of the IAF test pilots will be able to claim.

The game is on.


Face-to-face: rating their chances


F/A-18 Super Hornet: Overall chances: COOL

Pros
1. Battle-tested, frontline fighter with the US Navy
2. Powerful, agile, rugged, designed for aircraft carriers
3. Advanced avionics and missile systems
4. Can function as refuelling tanker with external fuel tanks
5. Fields fully-operational and deployed Raytheon APG-79 AESA radar

Cons
1. US restrictions on modifications and end usage
2. Earlier generation design, dating back to 1980s
3. Heavy, 30-ton aircraft, expensive



F-16IN Super Viper: Overall chances: WARM

Pros
1. Tested modern fighter, has logged over 100,000 combat missions globally
2. Single-engine, 19-tonne fighter, price competitive
3. Advanced avionics and missile systems
4. Advanced Northrop Grumman APG-80 AESA radar
5. Four F-16 production lines functioning world-wide

Cons
1. US restrictions on modifications and end usage
2. Earlier generation design, dating back to 1980s
3. Earlier vintage F-16s in service with Pakistan Air Force


Eurofighter Typhoon: Overall chances: COOL

Pros
1. Contemporary fighter, still evolving
2. High performance, high-end technology, including supercruise
3. Offering India development partnership
4. No end user restrictions, easy transfer of technology
5. EADS already helping to develop India’s LCA

Cons
1. No combat experience
2. Heavy, 25-ton aircraft, expensive
3. AESA radar still under development


Saab Gripen NG: Overall chances: RED HOT

Pros
1. Only Eurofighter and Gripen are capable of Supercruise: supersonic flight without afterburners
2. Can land, refuel, rearm and take off in 10 minutes
3. Light, single-engine, highly cost-effective
4. Selex Raven AESA radar with advanced swashplate technology
5. Willing to hand over source codes for high-tech equipment

Cons
1. Has US components, including engines and avionics
2. AESA radar still under development
3. India has never operated a Swedish fighter


RAC MiG, MiG-35: Overall chances: HOT

Pros
1. Dovetails easily with IAF’s MiG-29 fleet
2. Typical Russian fast, agile fighter
3. Vastly improved avionics and targeting system
4. Thrust-vectoring engines option exists
5. Cheapest ticket price of twin-engine fighters

Cons
1. Airframe barely improved from MiG-29
2. Zhuk-Phazotron AESA radar still under development
3. Life cycle cost of Russian fighters is traditionally high


Dassault Rafale: Overall chances: DARK HORSE

Pros
1. Amongst the most contemporary options
2. France deploys on land and aircraft carriers
3. IAF’s Mirage-2000 fleet creates comfort level with Dassault
4. Transfer of technology smooth; no end user restrictions
5. Only non-US fighter with deployed AESA radar

Cons
1. Limited combat experience
2. 25-tonne, twin-engine aircraft, expensive
3. Only contender never to have flown in India

78 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rafale has good combat experience in Afghanistan. We don't need the Gripen and F-16's since Tejas will fill the role of light fighters. The middle weight category must be between Mig-29 and Rafale. Since Mig is delayed by a year according to Russia.(It may be two+ in reality just like the Mig-29K which has not yet arrived.). So the best option, I think is the Rafale. It's cost in inbetween the F-18's and the lighter aircrafts and perfomance wise beats many other crafts. So this seems to be the best option.

Tejaswy said...

Now...I might be the odd one out here but here goes.

I support Mig 35.

Not that I have an indepth knowledge with F/A....But I want to state the simple example of SU 30 MKI.

IAF is got the best deal out of it.

I am hoping that the MIG 35 will be as heavily modded as Su 30 MKI and will be renamed as MiG 35 MKI.

Come on...you guys will agree that we have had no real problems with SU 30 MKI till now.

Russians will give us a full ToT and will not make a fuss about Indian's foreign policy.

Not that the owners of SAB and RAC will make a noise...But hey... I am biased.

Tejaswy said...

Happy Independence day to all of you !

Anand said...

Dear Mr Shukla,
Very interesting article on the MMRCA comparison and its always a pleasure to read your articles. Though small correction in your report, Supercruise in Gripen is a relatively new phenomenon, until a couple of years ago the gripen was not capable of performing such a feat. However the first multirole aircraft to incorporate supercruise is the Eurofighter Typhoon. That gives India two contenders with supercruise capability.
Warm Regards,
Anand

Anonymous said...

Tejaswy, you are wrong in saying that Russia will give ToT. Give me a example where it has given full ToT of any full product. They never do that.. What you get is technology of low tech parts and crucial high tech parts will be held by Russians.

Tejaswy said...

To Mr.Annoy,

"Russia has stressed time and again that should the MiG-35 win the MMRCA tender, it would transfer all key technologies to India's Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and also provide assistance for the production of the aircraft in the country."

http://209.157.64.200/focus/news/2315849/posts

It says so here.

The MMCRA comes with a TOT and an offset clause.

And with the transparency being shown by the IAF in this regard, A TOT cannot be missed out. I think


You ask for an example...can't really think of any..probably because India only included the TOT clause recently.Probably!
:D

Anonymous said...

leh air field pic is security breach !!! please remove.. thanks

rafale said...

Hi Ajai,
The article was worth the wait.Thanks. I thought the Typhoon also had super cruise.Please could you check.
We must be wary of buying stuff from the US though. Greedy & sneaky bastards!
The Gripen photo is amazing.Please could we also have similar snaps of Rafale,Mig 35 & LCA tejas .Also any news of how LCA is shaping up now that EADS are involved in it?

Anonymous said...

why so hate against Rafale Mr. Shukla ji, Even the picture that you have posted is not of the real plane but a poorly designed Radio Controlled model(one can see internal wiring inside the model).
Gripen has no way of making it. The specs of the plane are similar to LCA Mark-II, whats the use of buying a similar plane?? From my POV the only planes that are going to make it would be one from the three mentioned below
1) MIG-35
2) Rafale
3) Euro Fighter.

-Raj

Anonymous said...

Hi Ajai,

The Gripen pic is that of an RC model. Put a decent pic, it is a beautful plane.

Anonymous said...

The reason why the jaguars and BMWs make sense now is because of the acknowledgement of greater Chinese threat.

The price of MIG is based on Putin's mood on that day, or what his Chinese masters command him to do.

I hope they have a check off matrix for TOT.

Don't believe Eurofighter's promised cooperation for future models. There may not be a any next version for Eurofighter.

F16 if Lockheed agrees to later throw a few sqdns of F35s at a discounted price.

Gripen seems just about right.

Jumbo said...

Some factual errors.

1. The F/A 18 comes with APG 79 AESA radar made by Raytheon which is considered superior to the APG 80 in the F-16 made by NG.

2. Both the Eurofighter and Rafale can Supercruise. The Eurofighter can Supercruise faster than the Gripen NG.

3. The AESA in development is shown as a negative for both the MIG and the Eurofighter while conveniently forgetting that the Gripen NGs AESA is also under development. A Swashplate like AESA is also considered for the Eurofighter.

4. The MIG is in the same price bracket as the two single engined figthers roughly. The Super Hornet would come in the middle category and the Eurofighter/Rafale will be the most expensive of choices.

Kindly change the above aspects. Especially the only aircraft with Super Cruise bull.

Broadsword said...

Thanks, all, for your inputs. I have amended the details about Eurofighter supercruise capability; and the Raytheon radar for the F/A-18.

I continue to believe that the Gripen's swashplate radar development programme is well ahead of the MiG's and the Eurofighter's, besides being technologically more advanced. There are potential differences between Eurofighter partners on funding for the AESA programme. And as for the Russian AESA rader, let's just say that they have a credibility problem.

thanks, again!

Broadsword said...

And yes, I have also changed the Gripen and the Rafale photographs!!

Anonymous said...

Tejaswy,

Not sure what you are talking about, for decades we manufacture MiGs here in India. But so far, we haven't got any technology transfer done on jet engines. Forget MiGs, take the case of Su 30MKI whose deal had ToT. Do you think India has got the technology to atleast manufacture AL-31FP turbofans here in India ??

Take the case of Brahmos, Russians are not willing to give you tech for engine, booster and seeker...

A K ANTONY said...

i go with broadsword...{gripen ng} see the video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3VnwJcPYE0&feature=related

because sweden is small country and i think all other fighters for example US-its agreement problem
euro fighter is developed by too many countries... mig-35 russias is depleting industries... delays cost rising...we can take any aircraft but not the mig 35....rafale is the second best....but frenchs ego and rising relations with pakistan is the cause of concern and more of its behaving like russia and rising cost... ex: scorpene deal...upgrade of mirages..etc
if we buy the gripen ng it can be first step to the formation of three countries india,israle,sweden to develop fifth gen aircraft...like airframe from sweden ..aivionics from israle...and marketing from india....big countries like us russia...will suck blood from india.. and i kindly request MR.BROADSWORD to start a poll in his blog like asian defence has for the fighters...but he must start for mmrca fighters....and more of all i praise for low cost high technology gripen...

Anonymous said...

Our company installed recently a small lift, after following thorough commercial procedures like minimum 3 quotations and ofcourse the bid costing the lowest, won the tender!The whole process went for a year! atlast and finally the lift was installed. Till today ,not a even a single day the lift functioned properly! as mukherjee sahab suggested"A collosal waste of time. Just ask the IAF which aircraft they want and buy it after due negotiations"
since the deal is being big, govt to govt negotians are necessary after choosing the suitable a/c by IAF supported by HAL reps and DRDO reps! This way we can stop rubbing salt in all most all major a/c manufacturers with whome we have links one way or other!

Rafale said...

All the contenders with the exception of Sweden & the French to some extent,have betrayed us in the past.
We should certainly not go for the F16 & F18.
neither should we go for the Eurofighter.The partner nations themselves are debating whether to continue the program. Their offer to India to join lacks credibility & only goes to show the lengths to which these countries are willing to go to get the deal.All the more imperative for us to retain science & engineering talent,& overhaul our defense PSUs & defense procurement policy

Anonymous said...

Ajai,

The Rafale may get an engine upgrade by the time of the MRCA delivery which will increase its thrust by 20% (M 88-3). The Current Rafale can marginally supercruise (depending on who you listen to) but the uprated engines will add that capability.

The SPECTRA suite in the Rafale deserves more mention as well I believe as it is arguably the best passive sensors around.

Anonymous said...

I continue to believe that the Gripen's swashplate radar development programme is well ahead of the MiG's and the Eurofighter's, besides being technologically more advanced
---------------------------------
EF has flown with CAESAR AESA in 2007 while Gripen is still more than a year away from starting Vixen 1000ES flight testing, so how is it well ahead? In case you are not aware the planned in service date for Gripen NG (with AESA) is 2015 against 2013 for EF and 2012 for Rafale. CAESAR AESA has 1425 T/R modules against 1000 in Vixen 1000ES.

emptyoceans said...

What happened about your earlier article that said that Gripen may be out because the Americans pressured the Israelis to not partner with IAI thus maybe killing SAAB's chances?

Anonymous said...

to anon at 16 August 2009 03:23

The price of MIG is based on Putin's mood on that day, or what his Chinese masters command him to do.

I hope they have a check off matrix for TOT.

F16 if Lockheed agrees to later throw a few sqdns of F35s at a discounted price.

Gripen seems just about right.
-------------------------------
empty headed chiken

why india will buy f16 if pakis have this aircraft also this aircraft hase been refused for last 30 years

today f22 for foreign vendor cost 280 million just for fighter and assotiated cost is extra,how much f35 will cost? no less than 200 million per aircraft and assotiated cost extra

Anonymous said...

to anon 16 August 2009 23:10

"hase been refused for last 30 years"

Yo Chicken little, the f16 has been refused for the last 30 years? What the hell do you mean?

The cost of F35 is estimated at 98mil. Even if costs go up 50%, they will be priced at 150mil.
I said if Lockheed is ready to offer a discount and the price comes up to 100-120 mil, then the fighter is a sure buy.

We don't need the MRCA to fight Pakistan. We need it to defend against any Chinese aggression.

Few sqdns of F35 will tilt the balance in India's favor for the next 20 years.

AA said...

I think what you are talking about is a SMART BUY. Look at it like this:

As per ACM, FGFA, Su-30 & LCA will define the fighter strength of IAF going into the future. (All have a high Indian content & ought to be cost-effective). eg. Su-30 is being built at break-neck speed and will replace depleted numbers following Mig-21 withdrawals. It's at the high-end & adds considerable muscle to the current IAF fleet.

LCA in Mk 2 form is highly competent yet with lowest cost of owership (COO); a flexible solution for numbers and for adding core flying competence. These will be inducted from 2013-4, with some Mk1 (possibly trainers?) in 2011.

So, $ 12 billion question is, where does MRCA fit in all this.... if at all?

Least-COO choice is indeed the best way out of a tricky mess. Surely, there is more to MRCA that that!!! A high-end, truely independent are the Rafale & Eurofighter. Their capabilities though will cost an arm-and-a-leg; how do they figure?

Besides operational (repairs, upgrades, safety, additional & complementary capabilities) and strategic factors (wrt to India's formidable opponents), it would be nice if something could be done to India's mindset when it comes to developing techonology and then putting them into production...ie, make it on par with the West/ East/ Best. It's the surest way to stay ahead of the main rivals. (***a very big step for Indian scientists and mandarins***)

Thus, I would like to monetarise the value of MRCA as COO + (plus) Additonal capabilities (at value accorded by IAF & not a £/$/Fr more) - (less) Political risk of denial of use/ techonology or cost-escalation + (plus) $/£/ Fr value to:

1) Enhance indigenous capability in both production & development of military equipment.
2) Access to across-the-board techonology at reasonable cost.

Gripen (best COO, TOT limited by US content, Value enhanced if US top-of-range features added, moderate political risks)

Mig-35 (Undefined COO - commonality of costs helps, TOT, Flexible esp add composites to frames / MKI/ good upgrades, significant contract risks, limited new techonologies not otherwise available from FGFA)

US (Fair COO, poor TOT, high political risk, legacy frames with some Top-of-Range features, good upgrades) - Great offsets can be had with P8-I, etc deals (across-the-board tech are good value).

Rafale (High COO - but built to last, TOT, possibilities to enhance indigenous capabilities and access techonologies .. though cost may be a factor, no political risk).

EADS (High COO, undefined TOT, Great Offsets & areas of collaboration like LCA, LCA engines, RTA, Airbus tankers, MRO, Helos, etc. EF itself requires ongoing investment & has lukewarm support from partners... India can achieve a lot if it puts its money into it .... but can India afford to do so?).

Changing Indian mind-set: Russian style is being tried out, it hasn't worked so far. US won't work in India's interest. French will give a short term fix. EADS is willing and capable, yet the challenges are sure to give India a right headache. Gripen might work - no big egos, sound engineering, practical market orientated approach to development. However, it could end up not being taken seriously.

Anonymous said...

contd...

Sorry the estimate for F35 is 93 million.

"today f22 for foreign vendor cost 280 million "

Is the F22 for sale? I don't think so.

Super Viper and the vintage Paki F16s are not the same.

Anonymous said...

AA/others,
Do we know what eactly is part of MIG 35 and Raffel TOT?
Does it mean that India will be given technology to put together imported lego blocks?

I'm saying this because even Boeing is promising TOT.

Anonymous said...

Rafale has a deployed AESA??

Ajai said...

emptyoceans, I have never written any article about the Gripen being out! Would you like to point out where this alleged article lives?

And what do you mean by "the Americans pressured the Israelis to not partner with IAI"? When I last heard, IAI was an Israeli company...

Anonymous said...

Rightly mentioned by Ajai - Amongst the shortlisted aircraft, the F-16 IN, and Gripen NG belong to the single engine category and the F/A-18 IN, MiG-35, Rafale and the Eurofighter belong to the twin engine category. In assessing the defense posture impact of single engine versus twin engine, it should be noted that twin engine aircraft historically provide greater safety, launch/mission reliability and survivability in both peace and during operations. This is substantiated by a study conducted by the US Air Force which examined F-16 and F-15 accidents over a six year period. The advantage of twin engine fighter aircraft is acute, in particular for India’s vast distances, climatic and elevation challenges, and far flung maritime approaches to secure. In combat or peace time, twin engine aircraft are more likely to bring the pilot home from the many conditions in which the IAF must operate. Conversely, a single engine aircraft such as the F-16IN or Gripen NG will incur more operational and peace time losses and contribute to defense of the nation less effectively. Dnt know why you rated them as favourites!!

Abhijoy said...

Hi Ajai.
emptyoceans was referring to this post by Shiv, http://livefist.blogspot.com/2009/07/jpost-gripen-pushed-out-of-mmrca.html

He mistakenly thought it was your blog post. Im not sure about the implications or the validity of the article but its worth a read either way.

[another source : http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/2009/07/06/329271/iai-forced-to-withdraw-support-for-gripens-indian-bid.html ]

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @16 Aug 2009,

India IS manufacturing the AL-31FP engine - visit HAL Korwa's new plant to find out. Only one idiot, with the initials PS has been claiming otherwise. HAL went so far as to even display the single crystal production method to the public. HAL is also manufacturing DirSol'd blades for the Adours. For those who ask why this cant be transferred to the Kaveri, the reason is simple, each design is unique and highly customized to the engine in question, this mix and match business only exists in comic books, GI Joe cartoons and Prasun Senguptas blog. And about seeker and propulsion for Brahmos, we never asked for them, so we didnt get it. Its a different matter that the SCAN imaging seeker for BRAHMOS-2 was developed by India.

Anonymous said...

Saw an F-18 zooming away from the HAL airport today while I was coming back from my company's canteen in Whitefield. I recognised it from the wing design. When I pointed it out to my friend that it was an F-18 he said "Oh, I thought it was a Mig-21". It then occurred to me that to the average joe on the street, the multi-billion dollar struggle in the sky means absolutely nothing.

Uday said...

If we select F16, we might get help from Israel to upgrade the fighter with out US help.
if not, other option is EF Typhoon, it's the best and still developing. even india can join in their future program!

Anonymous said...

contd...

Sorry the estimate for F35 is 93 million.

"today f22 for foreign vendor cost 280 million "

Is the F22 for sale? I don't think so.

Super Viper and the vintage Paki F16s are not the same
----------------------------
what is the difference between the super viper and paki f16? same airframe annd even older f16 can be fitted with sabr aesa radar and all PGMs and missiles

and f35 isn't coming before 2016 and by then its price will soar to twice its today and also iindia will get only scaled down product

and f35 is out of question cuz pak fa coming down the line

Anonymous said...

'and f35 isn't coming before 2016 "

True but we won't see any MRCAs before 2013. That is, if there are no further delays in scheduling the trials and finally making a choice.

"and f35 is out of question cuz pak fa coming down the line"

Lets see when PAK FA takes off. We will know in Nov how far PAKFA is really behind schedule, i.e, if it even flies.

"what is the difference between the super viper and paki f16?"

If PAKFA does fly and is all that its supposed to be, it will be foolish to think some variant of PAKFA won't end up being mass produced in China.

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Punit Shukla said...

If we see, this 126 fighter aircraft competition from different angle(Non technical); If we consider engine for Tejas & total value(10-12 billion$) very important factor. Then things come out like is- Gripen & Mig35 does not fit in to budget(low cost, India has recieved best of Russian in SU-30 & newer technologies will come with FGFA, so Mig 35 will not bring any thing extra), Rafale is also out(over budget & france is not a source of engine for Tejas). Pakistan has F-16 & its engine will not match with Tejas-II, so F-16 is out. Only left behind are F-18 & Eurofighter which fits in to budget & engine. Eurofighter should win as it is a new fighter with new generation engine and a reliable source. Mig-35 can become important if lower cost is crucial factor.
If we look for upgradation/Spare parts 15 yrs after purchase of MMRCA- Gripen should be most difficult due to its small number. F-16/18, Eurofighter, Rafale should be most easy but most costly too(e.g. upgradation of Mirage). Migs come in between, as sufficient numbers have been produced( including Mig 29). For Mig-35 upgradation should be easy(e.g. Mig-21) but spares should be difficult. Unfortunately Mig-29 could not the respect which it deserves because of- (1) It did not have better avionics of western standards(SU-30MKI managed it) so it did not get chance to show its best capability(dog fight)(2) It had few conflicts that too not in best hands, its pilots not only ejected from plane but also from their country(Iraq).
No competitor can match price of Mig-35(excluding Gripen). Mig -35MKI(i.e. Israel & Europian input) should be best option, if Russia transfers production line to India(Which it is not already going to use) with permission to export Mig-35(if India succeds). Mig also claims, engine of Mig-35 is better than that of SU-30.—Punit Shukla

Sandy said...

My feeling is that the Air Force will go in for F/A-18 for some real good reasons:
One, it is a state-of-the-art fighter with unparalleled radar and avionics in the world, second only to the F-22...
Second, with China getting aggresive in its designs, India needs an effective counter to Chinese Su-30MKK, which only the F/A-18 can provide...
Third, India would get access to the best American fighter munitions, including AIM-120, Maverick, GBU's, HARM, etc which would give IAF a solid edge over its adversaries...
As for TOT, i think its more a matter of negotiations and pricing and ministry would have enough experts to obtain the best terms from them...
Having seen F/A-18 at Bangalore Air Show myself, i think its superior to anything the IAF currently operates....

Abhiman said...

It is [U]extremely unfortunate[/U] that despite having an indigenous fighter under development, the IAF has chosen to purchase foreign jets for the 126 'MRCA' order.

This, despite the fact that the DRDO and the IAF have both stated that the Tejas Mk.2 shall be introduced in the IAF by 2014 itself --- the same date of introduction of the first 'MRCA'.

The Tejas Mk.2 will carry the same number of weapons as the Gripen - NG and F-16 Super Viper. It is also likely to have the same combat radius as these two, in the same mission profiles and equally powerful engines. Thus, there is absolutely NO NEED to purchase a foreign MRCA, as Tejas Mk.2 can easily fulfill that role in the stipulated timeframe.

It was said in an interview by former Air Chief Mr. S P Tyagi that the MRCA is meant to fill the gap between the 'heavy' Su-30 MKI and the 'light' Tejas. I think the Tejas Mk.2 can fill this gap between the Su-30 MKI and 'light' Tejas Mk.1.

Anonymous said...

this tender will not be decided by what IAF likes but who can armtwist MMS most !! so unkil SAM has best chances.. maybe it will be a 50:50 between what IAF likes and what MMS likes .

jason said...

can anyone tell me if india has any stealth fighter plane and if no y arent we looking for some is it beacause it is hard to purchase any restriction or something else ????

i am a new comer here :)

Sushovan Paul said...

whoever win, we loose. Whatever these companies are promising in the offer, history has it and we all know, they are going to play games wits the need to modification, technology transfer etc. I'm an aeronautical engineer and i know about these aircrafts very well . We have the Tejas on the horizon and can match most of the aircrafts in the MMRCA deal not to mention, Tejas MK II is even better. Airforce should understand that a HAMAM IS ALWAYS BETTER THEN SOAPS IMPORTED FROM PARIS. And as for the politicians, countries security and progress is much more important then their pockets. I request the author of the above article that it you can, please tell the people in the deal that in 10 years from now China will be the super power and not the U.S. And that we can never win against China with imported pieces of junk.

Anonymous said...

Folks ,

Talk , Talk , Talk is all we do . It appears that :-
1. The LCA (1 or 2) deal is like a sick guy saying that he will treat his illness , only when his unborn child becomes a doctor
2. The MRCA is pure wishful thinking . Do you think that our leaders,media,so called scientists, politicians and inteligencia will ever let us make an honest selection of the best among all 6 ? No way , each has too much at stake.
3. We need an interim solution fast and now with the Mig 21 numbers depleting rapidly.
4. So let us go one by one. Immediately order if available three additional squarderns of Mig 29M2 to replace the old 21's on a one to one basis with a timeframe of 3 years,with European and Isreali aviniocs and weapons; and/or
5. If Russians play truant then get the surplus Mirage 2000 9 from the Abu Dhabi for replacing the 21's; or
6. Simply order the existing Gripen to fill up the gap temporarily.
The target is that by next 5 years I should have at least 40 squarderns on the job. It is not easy but what is??

Anonymous said...

Gripen has the lowest chance. Please be realistic. It is definately not a red hot chance. Rafale is much better

Anonymous said...

I appreciate you Anony at 13:34,

our both view are almost similar .

India need to place interim orders for 4+ gen jets at least for 40 - 50 nos to stop heavy depletion in IAF .
our longer range AAM's R-77 seems to be not working up to mark. so we are loosing our BVR edge against Pak/ China .

HAL has the tech for Jaguar Darin 3/Mig series /Su 30 , I wonder why HAL didn't create at least a clone from it , if they can't further research from the TOT which they have received , it is total waste of people's money to pay extra for TOT .

For Tejus mark 2 version need to make in fastrack , they are not going to invent any new products to add with mark 2, it seems they are going to import some needed things ,for selecting new engines & products from abroad manufactures , they planned to waste another some years . We request HAL to avoid spending/ wasting such a long time in the name of mark 2 , DO IT IN FASTRACK .

Anonymous said...

to punit shukla

For Mig-35 upgradation should be easy(e.g. Mig-21) but spares should be difficult. Unfortunately Mig-29 could not the respect which it deserves because of- (1) It did not have better avionics of western standards(SU-30MKI managed it) so it did not get chance to show its best capability(dog fight)(2) It had few conflicts that too not in best hands, its pilots not only ejected from plane but also from their country(Iraq).
No competitor can match price of MiG-35(excluding Gripen). Mig -35MKI(i.e. Israel & Europian input) should be best option,
----------------------------------
how many NATO fighters were flying against Iraqi mig29s?

NATO had

f16,18,14,15,111,117,
m2000/4000/f1,tornado
AWACS,J STARS,hawk eye,satellites,prowlers.

is something else remaining which i did not mention?

and do u have idea 7 f16 and a f18 were shot down in 1991 and this was never highlighted by Americans and Americans always triumph their success

and mig29 had to flee cuz no one wants to die against huge NATO force and even if those pilots survived one they they would surely be shot down some other day by NATO fighters.

and the mig29 with upgrading matches f16blk52 and mirage2000's rdy2 radar

Anonymous said...

its time to upgrade the exixting mig21 with python5,derby and elta2032 radar along with good EW suite and this can be done quickly

Ajai said...

Jason, there are no clear definitions for "stealth fighter". Every modern fighter incorporates some stealth features... and some are more stealthy than others.

A high degree of stealth usually comes at the cost of aircraft performance, because aerodynamics get compromised when pursuing a low radar cross section.

So in high performance fighters, much of the so-called stealth is created electronically. Jamming, scattering, deflecting, creating false images, etc.

India is a relative newcomer to this game.

Gaurav said...

Hi Ajai,

Very thorough analysis of all the competitors. And I have worked at a private sector company on this very program. It is surprising that you pitch the Gripen as your top choice, however. No doubt it may be the best for India in terms of pure value for money and it is combat proven as well.

However you surely know how decisions are made eg. how the recent long range patrol aircraft program went to went to one competitor even though the other competitor was supposedly lower on price and had double the range. This all but talks about the growing clout of the Yankees with our Ministry which will see them to go to great ends to push this program through either the F16 or the F18A way.

@ the Russian competition, probably the bitterness of India over Gorshkov may have a significant impact.

In my interactions with the french a year ago, I found that they had not committed resources as much as the Yankees and Europeans and had just one part time program manager, which in hindsight may turn out to be a brilliant strategy since the Yankees and European programme managers keep changing all the time.

Would love your views on this.

Anonymous said...

Lets see when PAK FA takes off. We will know in Nov how far PAKFA is really behind schedule, i.e, if it even flies.


If PAKFA does fly and is all that its supposed to be, it will be foolish to think some variant of PAKFA won't end up being mass produced in China.
---------------------------------
as if f35 won't go to pakis .

and for f35 our govt has to negotiate very hard over end user agreement and price and tech transfer and all of these three thing US govt won't agree and this is the truth

and pak fa will be more capable than f35

Anonymous said...

Any moron who advocates American fighters for MRCA should be shot for treason. The last thing I need is a fighter from a government which changes its 'mood' every 4-8 years.. not to mention arming Pakistan with Aim-120 Amraams to fight the Taliban.
I bet most of the morons advocating American fighters are NRIs who wish to see close co-operation between the country they abandoned and the country they are currently working in.

Rafale gets my vote!!! Followed by both EF & Mig-35.

Anonymous said...

Continued..
Propeller driven non-crucial Aircrafts and America sanctioned Israeli radars are ok, but a high performance constant maintenance jet fighter with incomplete tot is a totally different ball game and a prime Air asset to be taken very seriously.

Anonymous said...

Frankly speaking, the real contenders are Typhoon, Rafael and MiG-35. As for Typhoon, you have to deal with the whole of Europe. Rafael is real good but expensive. Mig-35 will bring in TOT very easily. The best deal will be the one that allows TOT from day one. My choice will be splitting of the bounty between Rafael and MiG-35.
Capt. Sri

Anonymous said...

Don't know why some oldie a**holes at "Bharat Rakshak" feeling pain in their annals over Mikoyan bureau surviving or not if Mig looses MRCA contract?

Anonymous said...

TOT is jst a dream, they'll only tell wat things r used and we can source it frm other places if we want they r not gonna teach u hw to make them.SO don't get too much carried away by TOT.
WE don't need GRIPEN unless IAF abandons TEJAS nor do we need Fs coz tos porkis already hv them they'll kno all its flying characteristics & uncle sam isn't a reliable partner.
As wit TYPHOON, its toooo costly (we can get 3 MKIs for one EF & 3 MKIs can easly beat a n EF) even the host countries r not inducting them, lately UK diverted sm 70 of them to UAE. UK is wanting out of the program.
Best options on paper r RAFALE and MiG 35.
I prefer RAFALE coz until nw WE hv placed all vr eggs in Russian baskets and tat wont b good, too much leverage and VIKRAMADITYAS might happen again.
RAFALE is a new design. Let alone TVC(thrust vectoring), RAFALE is much superior to MiG 35 in almost all its characteristics and r in service in good numbers

oddessy said...

TOT is jst a dream, they'll only tell wat things r used and we can source it frm other places if we want they r not gonna teach u hw to make them.SO don't get too much carried away by TOT.
WE don't need GRIPEN unless IAF abandons TEJAS nor do we need Fs coz tos porkis already hv them they'll kno all its flying characteristics & uncle sam isn't a reliable partner.
As wit TYPHOON, its toooo costly (we can get 3 MKIs for one EF & 3 MKIs can easly beat a n EF) even the host countries r not inducting them, lately UK diverted sm 70 of them to UAE. UK is wanting out of the program.
Best options on paper r RAFALE and MiG 35.
I prefer RAFALE coz until nw WE hv placed all vr eggs in Russian baskets and tat wont b good, too much leverage and VIKRAMADITYAS might happen again.
RAFALE is a new design. Let alone TVC(thrust vectoring), RAFALE is much superior to MiG 35 in almost all its characteristics and r in service in good numbers

Anonymous said...

"not to mention arming Pakistan with Aim-120 Amraams to fight the Taliban"

Yes, that's not good for India. Russia has allowed China to sell nearly 300 (Thuuuunders + J10s) planes that use Russian engines to Pakistan. France is selling submarines equipped with AIP to Pakistan. And you think France will think twice before selling Rafale to Pakistan? If you didn't notice, every country is for itself.


"as if f35 won't go to pakis ."

Sure, F35 may find their way to Pakistan. Hell, PAKFA might find its way to Pakistan through China and the Paki media will claim they designed it. All I'm saying is India can't lock itself in a corner thinking that it will never buy arms used by potential adversaries.

"pak fa will be more capable than f35"
If PAKFA is superior to F35 then there is no question India should go with PAK FA. The gazillion renminbi question is if Sukhoi can deliver on their promise. Can India afford to be told in 10 years that Sukhoi needs more money to fix the last known problem in PAKFA? What is the exit strategy if PAKFA project goes down the tube?

India is the loser irrespective of which plane it buys. Again, it is China that India has to worry about.

Anonymous said...

There were recent reports that Hamas couldn't fire stinger missiles on Israeli planes because the planes emit a friendly beacon.

Will Pakistan's AIM-120 become redundant if they fire on Indian F18s?

Natt said...

I really hope that the MiG 35 is selected as the winner in these trials. Russia is India's best ally and has historically proven itself to be friendly and supportive. The Brahmos is a good example to site here. India should not trust the western powers,esp USA. We have had problems with them in the past in terms of restrictions in Tech transfer, spare parts, and not to forget the sanctions after pokhran 2. Russian fighters are robust, flown by the Indian armed forces sine long and very familiar. I hope we buy the Migs.

Anonymous said...

There were recent reports that Hamas couldn't fire stinger missiles on Israeli planes because the planes emit a friendly beacon.

Will Pakistan's AIM-120 become redundant if they fire on Indian F18s?
--------------------------------
u r right,about the stinger missile,how to defeat it is already known by Israelis,but drdo till toady has not done much in this cuz mi17 was shot down by stinger or IAF should learn something from israelis

but its not true for amraam if pakis fire amraam it becomes redundant against f18

Anonymous said...

our DRDO people better go home

Anonymous said...

but its not true for amraam if pakis fire amraam it becomes redundant against f18 cuz pakis have much bigger military industrial comples and trained personnel than arabs in middle east to break the locks in amraam seekers or guidance

Anonymous said...

if pakis fire amraam it becomes redundant against f18

but also if f18 fires amraam against f16 it also become redundant against paki f16

Anonymous said...

"but also if f18 fires amraam against f16 it also become redundant against paki f16"

That would be so funny. However, India can use the F18 in Air to Ground mode.

"pakis have much bigger military industrial comples and trained personnel"

I thought US restrictions made it impossible for buyers to modify weapons ;)

Tejaswy said...

SO when is the winner likely to be announced Ajai?

Anonymous said...

SO when is the winner likely to be announced Ajai?
----------------------------------
2 more years and 3 more years to deliver the aircraft which is mid 2014

himalayatoproom said...

Gripen NG/IN would be best for India. There should be 252 aircraft for the cost of 126. It can take off and land on roads even, and this would be crucial in case there is conflict with China as China has more aircraft than India and China will attack Indian airfields first and make them inoperative. Thus, the only plane that can still hit back at China would be Gripen NG/IN that can take off from small roads even to bring down Chinese planes from unexpected places. Swedes make good machinery. Bofors is one example in Kargil conflict.

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Anonymous said...

As a journo who once covered the MMRCA deal, I agree with Ajai's assessment on technical grounds.

While logic might say otherwise, the Gripen does stand a better chance on the basis of the evaluation points put forth by the IAF. The cost of acquisition as well as running costs of a single engined fighter give it an advantage over the 30-40 year lifecycle the IAF aims to put these 126 fighters through.

Whether the IAF (in this case the MoD) will also consider matters of geopolitical interest, strategic interest or otherwise is a matter of conjecture, but at the same time it's important to note that discussions about the Americans leading the race is more a case of hearsay, rather than any solid evidence. As far as IAI not providing AESA to Saab for the Gripen is concerned, this was always going to be a matter of worry, since the IAI AESA tech is based on US design and the US does hold first right of refusal. Besides, Sweden has more than just a deal on hand - it also has strategic and business interests with the US and vice-versa.

My heart does vouch for the EF, given its overall performance. It might be the most expensive, but is genuinely the kind of fighter to hold its ground as a strong second line of defence, if the Sukhois are being pasted - left, right and centre.

MARKETING MASTER said...

cool article,we should get the jet fighter that our rivals(china & pakistan)cannot have.and that country is Russia(MIG 35).

Anonymous said...

Buy <126 Rafales, may be 100 or 75 to compensate for higher cost. And add numbers with LCA MK-II.

Natt said...

The ancient F 16s should be totally left out of the picture here..dont know why they were chosen for the tender in the first place... India should look for a 2 engine aircraft which can carry more weapon loads over larger distances to counter china...the days of dogfights are now long gone with the development of bvr missiles and such...lighter aircraft with higher maneuverability may not be the need of the hour..

Natt said...

My Vote is MiG 35....

Oliver said...

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Pawan said...

Iam a new visitor to this blog, however reading certain facts of this blog, actually got glued on to it.I beleive with the level of statistics discussed and shared, the most probable competition will remain between Rafale and Mig35, keeping in mind the earlier spares issues we have had with Mig airplanes. Also at the same India need to emphasise more on developement of LCA MKII or even a stealth fighter in the future in ordee to give more strength, keeping in mind the neighbours like China.
Regards
Pawan

bluefire said...

i think the americans will have a premature retirement F-16 definitely should and would love to see how rafale performs. i think only the cost will stand in its way nothing else

Anonymous said...

Hii Ajay!
Can you tell us why India insist on two seater fifth gen plane ,Given that so much automation and electronics anyway goes into the plane and would relieve the burden on pilot???

Rahul said...

Hi Ajay
Thanks for one of the most authorative source of information on MMRCA. Now since IAF and MOD is opting for EJ200 as the engine for Tejas MarkII, I believe IAF will tilt towards Eurofighter Typhoon until and unless it follows an appeasement policy for all. I had heard from certain quarters that MOD is planning to increase the number to 252. Is that true? In that case I believe this will be the breakup:
126 Typhoons: Replacing Jaguar and MIG 27.
74 Mig35: Replacing 70 odd Mig29.
52 Rafale: Replacing 51 Mirage2000.