(Sorry, forgot to post yesterday): Only Dassault, Eurofighter left in IAF fighter selection - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 29 April 2011

(Sorry, forgot to post yesterday): Only Dassault, Eurofighter left in IAF fighter selection

Right: A view of Aero India 2011, with a Eurofighter doing aerobatics in the distance.

Left: Rafale taxies for take off. As Broadsword reported then, these were the two fighters that were the IAF's choices, and that the American fighters were out of the race

Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 29th April 11

India’s keenly watched purchase of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) for some Rs 42,000 crore ($9.5 billion) has entered its final leg. Yesterday, four of the six vendors were officially ruled out of the fray after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) wrote to them, providing full details about how their fighters had failed to meet the specifications laid down by the Indian Air Force (IAF). Just two vendors did not receive letters of rejection: France’s Dassault Aviation and the European consortium, Eurofighter GmbH.

The aircraft that the MoD ruled out of contention include Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet; Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN Super Viper; the Russian MiG-35; and the Swedish Gripen NG. Each of these failed to meet several of the over 600 parameters evaluated by the IAF. The Gripen, for example, though highly rated in flying performance, was rejected because the IAF was not convinced that its airborne radar would be delivered in time.

Neither Dassault nor Eurofighter have been officially informed that they have been down-selected, or that they are the only two vendors remaining in contention. But both are assuming their aircraft met the IAF’s requirements during the technical evaluation and field trials. And, that one of them — the lower bidder, going by India’s defence procurement regulations — will be awarded the contract.

“We’re not yet popping the champagne or handing out bonuses,” said an executive from one of the vendors still in contention. “We haven’t heard anything yet from the MoD, so any celebration would be premature.”

What is clear, though, is the disappointment amongst the losers, each of which had spent millions of dollars in putting their fighters through the MoD’s rigorous selection process and supporting their bids from newly-opened offices in Delhi. The United States government, which has applied sustained political pressure from President Obama downwards, has declared that it is “deeply disappointed by this news”.

Indicating that Washington has not yet given up hope, US Ambassador Tim Roemer stated today, “I have been personally assured at the highest levels of the Indian government that the procurement process for this aircraft has been and will be transparent and fair. I am extremely confident that the Boeing F/A 18IN and Lockheed-Martin F-16IN would provide the IAF an unbeatable platform with proven technologies at a competitive price.”

The Boeing Company, also “disappointed with this outcome”, stated, “Our next step is to request and receive a debrief from the IAF. Once we have reviewed the details, we will make a decision concerning our possible options, always keeping in mind the impact to the IAF.”

The MoD’s tender (officially termed a Request for Proposal, or RfP) asks for 126 fighters, with the first 18 to be supplied in flyaway condition within three years of signing the contract, and the balance to be progressively built in India through transfer of technology. But most aviation experts predict the IAF’s growing requirements will lead to at least 200 MMRCAs being eventually inducted into service.

The down-selection of the Eurofighter and Rafale points to the Indian military’s growing financial muscle. Going by publicly available figures of previous purchases of these aircraft, the Eurofighter and Rafale are easily the two most expensive of the six that were being considered. Critics point to the fact that the Rafale has not been bought by any air force besides France. Of the four countries that developed the Eurofighter, three — the UK, Italy and Spain — have decided to go in for the F-35 being developed by the US, rather than increase their fleet of Eurofighters.

Nevertheless, the IAF’s dwindling fighter fleet — now down to 32 squadrons from an authorised 39.5 squadrons, each squadron having 18 fighters – has forced the MoD to go ahead with the MMRCA purchase. The indigenously developed Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), entering production now, will only be inducted in significant numbers after 2016. The IAF has been meeting the shortfall by buying more Su-30MKIs from Russia, even as Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s production line has failed to meet schedules.

Meanwhile, the IAF has pressured the MoD to expedite the MMRCA purchase. At the Aero India 2011 air show in Bangalore, in February, IAF boss Air Chief Marshal P V Naik declared that he expected the MMRCA contract to be signed by this September, a day after Defence Minister A K Antony had set a deadline of March 2012.

In the next step in the MMRCA procurement, which is expected any day, the MoD will ask Eurofighter GmbH and Dassault for fresh commercial bids that will remain valid for the next two years. The two companies will also be asked to finalise their offset proposals. Then the commercial bids will be opened to decide the winner. Finally, an MoD-instituted cost negotiation committee will negotiate a final cost with the winning company.


  1. Good job. Politically a good decision. India followed the China way. By short-listing the European Consortium, India has become close to both US & Europe. Remember US took a contract for GE-414 & Hercules. Now it is Europe's turn.

  2. DOOM.
    We are left with the costliest evaluation.
    With the eurofighter having serious serviceableness issues it leaves the field open for rafale.
    Now we can expect them to play togh on the price nego.

  3. the wisdom of mass producing a high performance conventional fighter (Typhoon) of its ilk in a period where stealth is about to hit mass production in the F-22 and JSF programs could be seriously questioned. It represents what is likely to be the last major evolutionary step in the teen series design philosophy.


  4. Colonel you had mentioned in of your earlier articles about some IAF officers whom you had interviewed during Aero India 2011regarding the aircraft which was favourite to win MMRCA. that has proved to be right similar to the news report which was shown on Times now last year that Rafale and Typhoon would be shortlisted.theother four jets have reportedly fared poorly in flight evaluation tests and thus were eliminated.

  5. hey whatever happened to the shukla lal's prophecy a few days back...

    mmrca will be dropped in favor of f-35

    duh !

    well 2 years back, i made a prophecy in my circle.

    Eurofighter will win the MMRCA.

    ok, when's the next anti-mmrca pro- F-35 write up coming sire?

  6. Ajai sir, requesting status check of IJT.

    Not to mention that the IJT which became part of the hardest quiz over here has crashed. And looks like reason is exactly what BROADSWORDS had spoken about almost 10 months ago.

  7. Ajai da, now you must admit that your prediction of the cancellation of the MMRCA tender and IAF/MOD going for F-35 was a bit premature in its timing and in the whole context. As I have said numerous times in your blog that I am not against F-35 and I don't mind IAF going in for F-35 also but I also wanted this MMRCA deal to go through. Thankfuly it has happened.

    But one thing: It seems that your post today on this subject has not a single word written by you indigeneously and all of it seems to be purchsed/technologically transferred from outside sources.... May be I am wrong but it seems that I have seen each of this sentences in some other places....

  8. I still think JSF is the best option. Generation wise it is 25% better (4 Vs 5) and costs only 2x.

  9. It was an excellent decision by the concerned people.

  10. <<Of the four countries that developed the Eurofighter, three — the UK, Italy and Spain — have decided to go in for the F-35 being developed by the US, rather than increase their fleet of Eurofighters.




    one of the worst f-35 apologists i've ever read.

    they will purchase the f-35b (britain cancelled it for the cheaper c version) as they ALL have stovl-type carrier carriers (italian is cavour, british qe2 and pow) and want a replacement for the harrier (gb and spain already use it, i don't know for the italy).
    STOVL-ing any existing fighter would be a suicide for any company and would sell <1000 units altogether anyway...

    OTOH the f-35a (the one that india would buy) is overly limited from the forced relation with the other two fighters (ctol and catobar would probably be possible, but the stovl is the incest brother here and is ruining everything) such as bad "export" stealth (taranis and neuron for example can do way better and could be used for strike too), you can't pack anything useful in its weapon bays (give me a HARM please, as the sdb takes ages to fly 30nm to a SAM site) and its overly heavy and unmaneuverable (the perils of the joint design again).

  11. Ajay,

    Thanks for all the posting. I am great fan of you website. Now down select is done, I would like to know what would be your choice of the 2 fighter.


  12. Forgot as there was no F35 in the lot lol :D

  13. Great news. Antony proved his mettle.So did MMS.This cutting edge fighters gonna make a huge difference to our status against China.

  14. India must negotiate properly with the firm finally selected for supplying M-MRCA. The selected firm must ensure assistance in the successful development of Kaveri engine suitable for LCA Mark II.
    MoD must focus on earliest induction of LCA at a faster pace after granting FOC.

  15. It is most probable that our arch rivals China and Pak are never going to get the F-35 and whenever they get J-20, India too may have comparable capabilities.

    So to fill this strategic gap India should utilize the opportunities created by the latest outcome of the MMRCA tender and go for 126 Rafale with 77 EFT or vice versa depending upon the best prices and fulfillment of other tender conditions.

    Such an arrangement may ensure not only the quickest possible deliveries but also are not going to hamper the progress of Tejas-mk2.

  16. Interesting read but I think its a bit dishonest to try to link the Eurofighter & F-35 in the manner suggested. Especially at a time when the F-35 is suffering the same attrition as Eurofighter.

    The two aircraft will forfill completely different roles within their respective forces and the big enemy here is funding not direct competition between aircraft.

  17. Ajai ,

    Since it is already clear now that one of the two planes will be pursued and we are not going for F-35 as you would have liked, what in your opinion is better deal for India.

    Doing some reading i personally think that Rafale though costly is a better option for India.
    Typhoon Disadvantages:
    1. Uncertainity about ITAR regulations by US as Typhoon does use a significant number of US made parts. OTOH rafale is a complete french product and they have shown intent to share technology generously.

    2. Countries using typhoon are already salvaging planes to keep others serviceable due to spare parts problems . While rafale has spare production lines because French are going slow on its procurement due to economic reasons.

    3.Strategically buying typhoon yeilds nothing much when we look at foreign relations as it is a constortuim of 3 countries . I also feel that it leaves us more vulnerable to whims of 3 nation for many decisions in future throughout the lifetime of the planes. While France would be more than happy to serve India and treat it is as a good customers. They have been trying hard to sell rafale but have lost due to various other politico economic reasons, despite having a world class plane.

    4. The snecma developed engine is touted as the most quickly servicable engine , in fact the service cost of rafale through the entire life is said to be immpressivly lower than others. A factor that can justify the higher price upfront , but results in a net lower cost during entire lifetime.

    5. Through SNECMA france has a very obvious opportunity for meeting its offset goals , as snecma can just help india to mass produce the Kaveri engine. Any kind of ommonality that emerges between the rafale m88 engine and kaveri engine would definitrly be helpful.

    I have gathered all this info from net only , can you comment on accuracy of the info and ur preception about the same.


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