End this MMRCA hara-kiri - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 31 October 2011

End this MMRCA hara-kiri

The J-20 fighter prototype, a 5th generation combat aircraft built by China's Chengdu Aircraft Industry, made its first flight on 11th Jan 2011. This necessitates a re-evaluation of the IAF's procurement of 4th generation medium fighters, which is close to being finalised

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard
1st Nov 11

Knife-edge tension is guaranteed as senior executives from Eurofighter GmbH and Dassault assemble on Friday in the office of Vivek Rae, Director General (Acquisitions) of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The purpose of the gathering: to open commercial bids for the world’s most ill-conceived and biggest international arms purchase. I refer to the Indian Air Force’s harebrained proposal to buy 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) that will be outrun and outgunned by Chinese fighters soon after they enter Indian Air Force (IAF) service.

The opening of bids in any big contract is a tense moment. Eurofighter’s and Dassault’s inordinate anxiety also stems from the fact that the IAF buy is crucial to their future. Eurofighter GmbH faces serious internal problems with partner nations scaling down their orders. India is desperately needed to restore the economics of production. Britain’s Royal Air Force has already slashed its order for Typhoons. And, last week, The New York Times reported that Germany’s Luftwaffe (which ironically spearheads the Typhoon campaign in India) is trimming its purchase from 177 to 140 Typhoons. Dassault is in even direr straits, with Rafale having failed to find a single international customer; there are just 180 Rafale fighters on order, all for the French military, which hardly has a choice.

The only relatively carefree man at the start of that meeting on Friday might be Mr Rae himself, who will be sitting on the defence ministry’s war chest of Rs 42,000 crore. But his good cheer may not survive the opening of bids because the MoD’s estimate – arrived at some six years ago – will almost certainly be dwarfed by the lower bid. Last month the MoD revalued its original estimation in a process called “benchmarking”. But Mr Rae knows that if the winning quote emerges significantly more expensive than the MoD’s “benchmarked” figure, the process will begin anew.

Such an eventuality would be a blessing in disguise; and the best way to sidestep this cockamamie purchase of overpriced fighters that will take heavy casualties in any future conflict with China. Both the Typhoon and Rafale are “4th Generation-plus fighters”, inferior in crucial aspects like stealth to the J-20, China’s “5th Generation” (Gen-5) stealth fighter that took to the skies this year. Admittedly the J-20 would need a decade of flight-testing before it enters operational service, but the first MMRCA would only be delivered to India by 2015-16. Five years after that, operational J-20s, of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), will be dominating the Himalayas. The IAF MMRCAs, already outclassed by 2020, will limp around the skies till 2050 since the MoD will rightly protest that Rs 42,000-84,000 crore have been spent on them.

The IAF sadly is shutting its eyes to this even as China’s rising aerospace profile informs the security calculus of other regional air forces. Japan, South Korea and Singapore are realising that a Gen-5 fleet is needed for a credible defence capability against the PLA. South Korea is set to choose Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightening II, the only Gen-5 fighter on offer in the global market. The Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) too is veering around to the F-35 after Lockheed Martin was denied export clearances to supply Tokyo the F-22 Raptor, unarguably the world’s most advanced fighter. In 2003, Singapore invested money into the F-35 development programme; it is on course to buy the aircraft.

Given that a rising China makes choosing Gen-5 a no-brainer, why then is the IAF (presumably a rational actor) inexplicably buying Gen-4+ fighters? The reason, sadly, is the political-bureaucratic stranglehold over procurement in which any IAF re-evaluation carries a penalty of years of delay. In the early 2000s, when the IAF framed the case for buying an MMRCA, no Gen-5 aircraft were available for sale. The F-35 was under development but was not ready for flight-testing, an essential part of India’s procurement process. Unwilling to wait for a Gen-5 fighter, the IAF scaled down its requirements and initiated an impartial multi-vendor contest for whatever Gen-4+ fighters were there in the market.

Years later, as the IAF finds itself choosing between two Gen-4+ aircraft, it must also note that the F-35 is on the cusp of operational clearance. It’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, has signalled in multiple ways that it would supply the IAF that fighter at a fly-away cost of $65 million per aircraft (significantly cheaper than the Rafale and the Typhoon) with deliveries beginning by 2015. Washington has indicated that any F-35 sale to India would be expeditiously cleared. But for an insecure IAF, used to being shoved around by the MoD, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. The MMRCA purchase would bring in six squadrons of reasonably good fighters, even if they were outclassed by the PLAAF in war. Any change at this state, or so the IAF believes and accepts, would require fresh MoD clearances and financial sanctions that could take another three years.

But there is an alternative. The IAF must frankly tell the MoD that the situation has changed, and that national security demands scrapping the overpriced MMRCA procurement and buying the F-35 through a single-vendor contract. The defence of the realm cannot be held hostage to the procedural requirement of multi-vendor bidding; nor is overpaying justifiable if it was done through competitive bidding. New Delhi has recently procured several fine aircraft on a single-vendor, government-to-government basis: the Sukhoi-30MKI from Russia; and the C-130J and C-17 transport aircraft from the US. The procurement of a new fighter that will form the backbone of the IAF for decades must be treated with the same urgency.


  1. Oddly, Col. Shukla, you don't mention

    1) The trouble the US is having with their stealth fighters - 40 hours of maintenance for less than two hours flown. How many fighters will China be able to field in stealth to dominate the not-so-little Himalayan range?

    2) Not a single mention about the T-50/PAK-FA/AMCA? If the J-20 is flying, so is the T-50 and India is already a partner.

    Not denying that there are valid criticisms of the MMRCA programme - I was at Aero India in '03 when they were touting the imminent purchase - but we will need a battle-tested aircraft capable of doing heavy lifting throughout an entire conflict, not just SEAD or air support/dominance that stealthy aircraft can provide. The MMRCA will fill in the spot left by retiring -27s, Jags and Mirages.

    What I find unforgivable in your article is

    "The IAF must frankly tell the MoD that the situation has changed, and that national security demands scrapping the overpriced MMRCA procurement and buying the F-35 through a single-vendor contract."

    Really? And when will this aircraft arrive? And how will the IAF deal with the legal action that both Eurofighter and Dassault will unleash because of this?

    Not to mention the significant delays the F-35 is going through. At least for the two MMRCA contenders, they've seen operation and their niggles will have been located, documented and maybe fixed. Plumping down our money on an unknown commodity smacks of irresponsibility. I find it hard to believe that a practical person like you would advocate it.

  2. End your hara-kiri Ajay Shukla.

    My six year old daughter knows that the F35 does not cost $65 million. The US government own estimates currently project it's cost at $133 million, which is a very rosy estimate by any means.

    The currently estimated date for delivery of the F35 is 2016, not 2015. It will likely be delayed by many years however, given how problematic and failure prone the aircraft design has proven so far.

    Your failure to even mention the PAK FA is a exclusion so glaring from your article, that is makes me smell a rat. Why can the PAK FA which is futher along in development than the J20, not counter the J20???????

    The $65 million dollar figure is just a ruse by uncle SAM to convince us to cancel the MMRCA. Once we do so the price will be more like $150 million, and we will left with nothing but false hope about it entering production in 2016. If by some miracle that happens, we will then have to wait for other countries to get their planes first.

    You don't even know what the actual capabilites of the J20 are, or when it will enter production, yet you use that as an argument to call our air force and governments a bunch of idiots? You dont fool any one.

    We cannot beat the chinese if our defence journalists allow themselves to be misled (and bribed) by the US. Your article is the most ill-conceived and harebrained article I have read is a long time. It does not contain any logical arguments supported by real facts, it is more like school girl's fantasy. I have not figured out as yet how LM has managed to convince you about the F35, however, I am sure things will become clear with time.

    And dont prevent my comments from posting..........like you tried to do last time you wrote your article describing the F35 as a magical weapon with cosmic powers.....

  3. Mr Shukla,

    While I acknowledge your right to lobby for or against any platform, why is it that you do not bother to mention on what all constitute fifth generation capability. Stealth alone is not the benchmark...Supercruise, high agility and networking all matter. The F-35 falls behind aircraft like the Eurofighter on those counts.

    If a single vendor purchase was the way to go, why is that countries like Norway, Canada, Australia and the UK, which opted for the F-35, concerned over its capabilities, delivery timing and prices? A well-run multi-vendor programme will give you far more bang-for-buck just like the UAE got its F-16 E/F and South Korea's F-15Ks.

  4. ajai sir,
    agreed to your point but there is a slight problem if we buy f-35 , you see america made it clear that it will not give source code of f-35 to anyone not even british or any other partner. And as you know India will be a third party for f-35. It is the biggest problem with buying aircraft from america.
    There are also problems related to indian foriegn policy as it sometimes conflicts with us specially on iran and syria. Do you think India can risk another sea king like incident with america? And buying transport and strategic planes like c17 and c130 can hardly match buying of fighter planes. Having said that even I agree that 4.5 generation mmrca plane will not be able to hold out against chinese j-20. Just for suggestion going for su-35 can be good option with options to upgrade it with stealth features learned from su-pakfa and indian AMCA. Your say??

    Sanket jagtap

  5. very true , but i doubt there is anybody out there to listen to this.
    Security Challenges of india vis a vis are far complicated than faced by West Europe. France may be able to secure its future with 4+ generation of aircrafts but for IAF to face China & Pak ( J-20 may be exported to Pak for keeping India busy on both fronts) it needs technology of cutting edge, only then India can secure itself from Chinese aggression in future.
    I firmly believe that China would do everything to disrupt Indian economic development otherwise it cannot justify its policies to Hans

  6. Ajay: Interesting post and I believe IAF would have thought through as much as you have written. Few details you can consider to make you analysis complete

    - what about FGFA
    - what is the F35 package offered
    - what does the expedited offereing mean..when will the first F35 fly in IAF colors?
    - what monitoring regimes US insists? What we get if we dont accept to monitoring?

    Indo-US relations have not matured to the level where India can trust US in times of war (read sanctions!) Its an evolving relationship and need to stand test of time before IAF can buy fighter aircraft (or critical h/w). Weapon systems we are buying would be the stepping stone to reaching milestone..but are we there yet?

  7. j-20 will pose a serious threat in air to IAf'S air domination dreams. but by the time j-20 enters service in PLAAF ranks iaf wil have fgfa/pakfa. plus plaaaf will have around 500 j-11b chinese flankers and 300 j-10a/j-10b. MMRCA can easily defeat these so called chinese fourth generation fighters. there are many issues regarding F-35,EVEN THOUGH it is a good jet:
    1.will the export f-35 be as stealthy as the usaf one,,ANSWER IS NO,,its an open secret.
    2.f-35 is aerodyanamically very poor with a top speed of 1.6 mach and less thrust to weight ratio. even though it has new generation hms, it still may suffer in dogfights.
    3.delays and cost overunns in f-35 programme means IOC in usaf will be achieved by 2016,where as by 2014 or early 2015 we wil get mmrca.
    4.india is not a full partner or security cooperation partner like israel and singapore in f-35 programme,so india will not get f-35 before 2018/19 period by the time fgfa enters full service in iaf.
    5.even pentagon is contemplating slashing f-35 orders, due to cost overruns,,or even cancelling one of the versions of f-35.
    6.f-35 is having problems with many subsystems like helmet mounted display,so recently it has selected bae to develop a new back up hms for f-35 in case the vsi helmet fails to live up to its expectations.
    7.cost overruns....initial f-35 may cost over 100 million,,,later on when the production increases the cost might come down to 65 million....

    grass always looks greener on the other side ,,but f-35 is not problem free,so iaf is more or less right going for mmrca

  8. I will read this article...as soon one squeezes time in the day.

    But keep things simple.

    The MMRCA is the fastest way for us to "build capability". Or should I say "retain capability". Or better still....."regain capability".

    With this simple argument.....Matter closed. We need MMRCA.

    And I will read your article and give my two bit comment again. Maybe even modify my views if your arguments win. Am open.

  9. Col - F35 is limited in its anti aircraft role with only 2 BVRAAM...so i do not see it as a deterrant to J-20. However Typhoon with it's low RC and AESA makes it ideal anti J-20 choice.Also, as you said, first Typhoon comes to us in 2015 giving us 5 years to practice and master anti J-20 maneuvers. All is well Col...so relax. Browne knows what he is doing and we all trust in him.

  10. Hi Ajai,

    Why you don't have any reference to PAK-FA which is flying now? As i last heard IAF has plans to procure almost 214 of this mighty beasts, which will eat alive the j-20 any day. The PAK-FA with western/Indian/Israel avionics combined will be even superior to the F-35.
    Even if we compare the performance wise the J-20 has got a size which its engines cannot support. It is not that stealthy as its being projected. The MRCA aircraft's will be possible to eaisly outgun the J-20 with their AESA meteor combo. The only purpose of J-20 is to fly undetected and launch cruise missile's at american ships. It is not made for Arial combat.

    Now the thing which we should be bothered is their J-10, SU-30 MKM and J-15 aircrafts. They in numbers form a credible threat to the IAF. Hence the MRCA procurement which outperforms any of these aircrafts.

    The F-35 is not the only solution in world as you project. Now sir, please do a basic reserch on the F-35 Load carrying capacity. Your article is totally a miss. Hope you do better next time.

  11. What about the FGFA program that India is collaborating with Russia? India certainly will have 5th gen fighter aircraft around the time China gets its.

  12. You are constantly harping on this F35 thingy. Clearly you are not an expert either on air-force strategies nor on aircraft technologies. India is investing in Pak-FA to take care of J20. How much is Lockheed paying you for this "paid opinion" on Business standard.

  13. J20 is not a 5Gen aircraft. It doesn't have the engines nor the radar and the avionics of a 5Gen!
    It's a chinese scarecrow for the US. And they are making the most of it by pushing this F35...a financial and technological burden for years!!!Ajaysir, you quote 65M$...please, you know that the US proposed it to a European country at 135M$ each!

  14. It is better to choose one between the two (Rafale and Typhoon) as we will also be in possession of a Gen 5 aircraft (PAK-FA) by the time Chinese has their J-20 ready.

  15. How about filing a public interest litigation against this ?

  16. It is a rather interesting post which sometimes i'm bound to say is rather baised.
    You must give credit to the Indian Airforce as no where in the world such an advance technical assessment for the fighter aircrafts is done.
    They are the end users, they know there strenghts & weakness.
    I think we should not teach a fishermen to catch the fish while sitting on the banks of the river.
    As for the assessment of China goes it is easy to reverse engineer some thing but hard to grasp / master the science.
    I really don't understand your obssession with F 35's when even the Americans are cutting back on them. About the 5th Gen we should have faith in the capabilities of FGFA & MCMA.

  17. Why should we go for sanction prone f@uk 35 when we can have fgfa in same time as j20.
    we should not hurry to rally behind buddy with doutbful integrity.
    MMrca is interim step to will dwindling unit of airforce.
    With due respect not agree with you

  18. I agree with the logic though there is a big negative going for F-35.

    As we all know
    1.American equipment spares are subject to sanctions or arm twisting in times of war.

    2. The equipment can be rendered useless at will(by jamming crcuits installed in all american hitech equipment)

  19. Some points are true in your stands.
    if they have J-20 why not FGFA , its far most better than J-20, we know very tiny about j-20 but even its not comparable to T-50 /F-35.
    its really good to select F-35 , if not mmrca ,but has per our lazy move india will take another successful decade to touch F-35, than our IAF only have 300 nos in sqn . i think we better buy F-35 naval version for AC apart from mig 29 k and better longer range SAM( like S-400) to defend and defeat chinese AF

  20. Aaah, I’m not surprised to see all the usual rants… so here are some rejoinders from me. I’m sure none of you will be surprised to see me come out of my corner punching.

    Firstly… why do I not mention that India is engaged in a partnership with Russia to produce a “fifth generation” PAK-FA? Simple answer! The PAK-FA is not a fifth generation fighter, and will never be unless India funds every paisa of the Russian R&D that is needed to make it so. I happen to know a great deal about the PAK-FA programme. And you’ll have to wait to read about it, which I promise will happen soon.

    Vishnu.vyasan writes about the FGFA: “As i last heard IAF has plans to procure almost 214 of this mighty beasts, which will eat alive the j-20 any day.” All I can say is: ha ha! A serious defence analyst at work!!

    Secondly… everyone keeps harping on the “significant delays” that the F-35 is undergoing. Of course the F-35 is undergoing delays! Which high-tech fighter aircraft development has taken place without delays? Why does everyone forget the delays in the Eurofighter Typhoon programme, which make the F-35 delays seem insignificant by comparison? I’ll tell you why! Because the Typhoon is in production now. And so too, folks, will the F-35 be in a couple of years. They will no longer matter.

    Thirdly… you guys really do revel in memories about the way India was treated when it was an opinionated, sermonizing, going-nowhere, second-rung power… citing, for example, US sanctions and “technology denial” regimes. The sorry truth is that, while some of that is true, it is irrelevant today, when India has moved ahead. Sadly, none of you are ready or confident enough to think like citizens of an emerging global power, which cannot again be treated shabbily by anyone, least of all the United States, which is predicating its entire global strategy on convergence with India.

    If India falls short today of global power status, or takes longer getting there than is logically necessary, it will be because of wimps like you… who hold back India from thinking like a global power. A global power is a global power for one and only one reason: its people and its rulers are convinced that it is a global power. I simply don’t believe the Americans can play denial regimes or sanctions games with us any longer. Because I am absolutely certain that India is an emerging global power.

    The only thing standing in India’s way is a bagful of whining, under-confident ninnies who keep bleating on blogs about the days when they were whipped by the schoolyard bully. If you think like a mouse, you will remain a mouse.

  21. @ Anonymous 07:50

    I’m sure your six-year-old daughter knows that an F-35 does not cost $65 million. The problem seems to be that you think like your six-year-old-daughter! As any serious defence thinker knows, there are multiple cost figures out there, varying according to what you factor into each of those costs.

    The $65 million figure is the “fly-away cost”. Go figure what that means. And tell your six-year-old-daughter that you got it from someone who got it from official Lockheed Martin executives, speaking on the record… and who has published that in a serious newspaper. But I don’t think you know what that means.

    @ Anonymous 07:50

    You write, “Stealth alone is not the benchmark...Supercruise, high agility and networking all matter. The F-35 falls behind aircraft like the Eurofighter on those counts.”

    Read up on the F-35, please. It is the most highly networked fighter on the planet. Far more than even the F-22 Raptor. Go figure.

    @ Sanket Jagtap

    You believe that the US will not give source codes to any partner?

    Sanket Sahib, Washington is already set to give Israel certain source codes in exchange for coming on board the F-35 programme. And India will come on board with a much bigger order. What would you say that gives us in terms of leverage?

    @ Aditya

    Are you really, really, seriously arguing that India now has to buy either the Rafale or the Eurofighter because there will be legal action by them it we don’t?! I would be embarrassed making that argument…

    You’re asking when India can get its first F-35s? A top Lockheed Martin executive has visited India to make it clear that the IAF can be delivered the F-35 from 2015 onwards.

    @ Anonymous 10:41
    You write: “You are constantly harping on this F35 thingy… How much is Lockheed paying you for this "paid opinion" on Business standard.”

    Thanks, Anonymous, for your searching question. It must come from a really serious defence thinker… “F35 thingy”!

    You want some pink nail polish for your feeties?

    @ Satish Ranga

    You have such faith in the air force that you don’t want to query any decisions? Sure, good idea, let’s get rid of all controls, let’s dismantle the MoD, let’s hand over the defence budget to the IAF and let them spend it how they like…

  22. @Ajai sir
    I will take the liberty to giving my views in long sentences, so I hope you dont mind. First the 'Harikiri' as you talk about is the doing of IAF itself, and not MoD entirely.
    As is known when IAF realized the Dassault was not ready to keep Mirage 2000 production line open/idle for long it went for a multi vendor MRCA contract. The biggest mistake was committed their itself, when it invited Saab and Lockheed with their single engine planes. Then suddenly IAF changed it requirement to MMRCA which basically meant that F-16 and Jas 39 Gripen were out. Though F-16 was out even before it entered the race, 2 important reasons being its flown by PAF and also that its a 1970s base model. Nothing unfare about it.

    But IAF was particularly unfare to Jas 39 Gripen which met all the points but missed out solely because IAF has changed its requirements. Jas 39 Gripen as we know it is a late 90s model, and the Jas 39 Gripen NG presented in the contract was way better than the current production C/D models. Saab spent huge lot on Jas 39 Gripen NG but its was basically ditched by IAF at the last turn. This explains that why Saab is still putting marketing material for MMRCA in Indian media. It hopes IAF and MoD will correct their mistakes and go for it after they realize their 'Harakiri' that the selected birds Typhoon and Rafale have turned out to be hugely expensive after benchmarking.
    Ajai sir you yourself had speculated that the benchmarking will push the cost of these 126 birds close to 70000 crores, 28000 cores more than the original 420000 crores figure. I am sure our FM Pranab Mukherjee will never release a dime more than Rs 500000 crores even on request by MoD


  23. Shukla sir, I have been one of those few who has believed in buying F-35 formula, which you have been consistently proposing. But my question is this, who is reading this article and then giving it a serious thought about the pros and cons? A few ordinary citizens..

    Do the people who matter read it? And even if they read it, will these old men (most men in the top brass of the IAF, def min are bound to be) who are all pro-Russia, due to historical biases, even consider this seriously?

    And finally if they agree to your thought process, will their mighty tall egos let them say that this process was flawed?

    Too much to ask for ... Yeah, you are doing your duty as journo by highlighting it. Since it is a matter of country's defence (hush-hush) there can never be an opern debate on it. And even if there is a debate, who is going to decide?

  24. "let’s dismantle the MoD, let’s hand over the defence budget to the IAF and let them spend it how they like"

    -- The only sensible sentence in the whole post, though purposefully taken out of context.

  25. 1. Nobody knows the capabilities of the J-20. As far as many say, it's no more than a paper tiger.

    2. China's larger fleet of aircraft is not going to comprise J20s for the next few decades. Do you wonder why China is developing the J10's newer versions despite having a 5th gen fighter already in development?

  26. Col - You have given up uniform so behave like civil..learn to take criticism in stride. Also, we aren't buying American shit...once for all be it Chinese scaring us or Jehadi murdering us. First comes friendship and than business happens...but with Americans friendship only if you buy my stuff. This is not acceptable to us. Let's not forget powerful China and murdering Jehadi are all American creation.

  27. " Are you really, really, seriously arguing that India now has to buy either the Rafale or the Eurofighter because there will be legal action by them it we don’t?! I would be embarrassed making that argument…"

    Yes, I am arguing that. Can you give me a reason why they would not sue, why the procurement process will not be postponed and like the Bofors fiasco, we won't end up with any aircraft?

    "You’re asking when India can get its first F-35s? A top Lockheed Martin executive has visited India to make it clear that the IAF can be delivered the F-35 from 2015 onwards."

    And you believed him?

    I'm wondering if it is the same anchor who I've seen on TV that is writing these responses to our comments; calling people "wimps" and "bagful of whining, under-confident ninnies" when most have been civilised in commenting on your article is a sign of insecurity. So much for being a warrior.

  28. well mmrca makes less sense with the pakfa coming into production soon after. i don't buy the scaremongering because even after the production of the J-20 it those will not be in as high number as Su-27 derivatives.

  29. I wasn't going to comment on this article as it was more like something posted before. But then I saw the post above.

    You said We are an emerging global power and should think like one...aaah, I think we just did with that 1-2-3 rubbish [agreement]. And look where that got us and how they are trying to sc#$w us over.

    I have never read SAM guranteeing India F-35 source code transfer explicity or implicity nor, F-35 production transfer explicity or implicity.

    The Israel reason is not plausible for the Indian context. This has got nothing to do with being an emerging global power as GBR is still a global power in its own yet dimished way.

    It is naive to think SAM won't turn their back on us in a decisive war with the big bully on the block who, holds a trillion and some odd of their credit.

    By not going for the F-35 'WE ARE' thinking like an emerging global power.

    P.S. The best part of your story is your teaser about the FGFA - cannot wait to read it.

  30. "cost of $65 million per aircraft"

    This is the price of F-35 without the engine, the most important part.

  31. Ajay sir, there r somthing called ideal and something called feaseable.Purchase of f 35, a big if. YOU are paid for it or not ,its none of my bussiness.
    Even if china comes up with, we would have fgfa at that time to serve.you have doubt on capablities of fgfa so do i have on their j 20.an aircraft is more than an airframe.and in that count fgfa will outclass the j20s.
    And getting f35 in 15, are you serious! Israel will get it in 2016-17 odd years, so how do we.sir, we are a global power in making not one, only thinking doesnt make us global power.... We have to have the substance. Finally i will never want to have an arm in my hand with strings attached to it...........is usa willing to unknot that strings, i will definately want d purchase of jsf.
    And i will wait for your assesment of fgfa....post soon sir

  32. on behalf of everyone who pi**ed you off1 November 2011 at 02:59


    please,calm down

  33. Mr Ajai Shukla,
    Its only you who seems to whining about MMRCA and that too for long time now. You think FGFA is not 5th Gen but you are convinces that J-20 is. I trust the generals of the forces to stand-up and take on MOD when there is a need for it. For now, I would say that please stop bluffing your self or at least stop bluffing us into believing in benign US of A. Please don't give us the bull shit of start thinking like a global power and what not. We have some distance to go and chances are we will fall on our face if we don't take one step at a time.

  34. So you want to scarp our entire procurement effort based a prototype aircraft flown by China? Nobody even knows how good this plane is or when/if it will ever see production.

    Talk about a knee jerk reaction.


  35. What astonishes me the most about the anti-US whining brigade is this: they see no dichotomy in buying bagfuls of C-130J Super Hercules for special forces operations (probably the most sensitive ops that there can be, as the Osama killing demonstrated); or billions of dollars worth of C-17s (which will be crucial to our reaction to any surprise attack by the Chinese)... and at the same time cursing the US and whining about kill switches and sanctions and insisting that we cannot buy anything from the US because they were unfaithful to us during the Kushan dynasty!

    Hilarious! Where is your intellectual integrity folks?

  36. Contd...

    If IAF/MoD still go ahead with the chosen bird they will have to cut down the number of birds from 126 to around 70. That will be another Harakiri' as we wont get the required number of birds and still have to shell out massive cash. In contrast if we had gone for Jas 39 Gripen NG we could have had a fairly new aircraft with 4.5 generation features which we could have upgraded in tranches (much like the T90 tank) with AESA, reduced RCS in future to take it as close as possible to a 5th generation aircraft. All this we could have had well within 50000 crores even after benchmarking.
    The argument that we should go for 5th generation Lockheed F-35 does sound good (in terms of pricing, features) but you yourself have pointed out that its more suited for ground attack role (presumably against Pakistan) so to think that it can stand up against the much heavier J20 across the Himalayas can be termed as too much of an ask. Don’t you think that will be another ‘Harakiri’. Another point of discomfort is that India will never sign CISMOA, BECA or other agreement with US, which may rob the F-35 of some essential systems that IAF may need.
    Already the C-17 and C-130J contracted lack some essential systems. More over the US may some day put India under sanction for various reasons (read Iran, Burma), and stop supply of essential parts then we will be in trouble. Considering the fact that US is facing consistent problems with F-22 Raptor, which is slowly getting a nickname of Ostrich, the birds that cant fly (no pun intended) do you think another bird from the same maker, the F-35 will meet the requirements of flying over the rarified atmosphere of Himalayas.
    Whether it’s a 4th or 5th bird ultimately it boils down to the men who fly them, and surely you believe that the bird men of IAF are capable of matching anyone. Afterall they flew jets from Leh, the worlds highest airfield after making adjustments that even stunned the OEMs.
    I think that with the heavier 30 ton plus 5th generation FGFA and medium 20 ton plus 5th generation AMCA in the pipeline (irrespective of their date of completion/IOC/FOC) we don’t need another heavy twin engine 5th generation bird. What we need is a light 10 ton plus single engine 5th generation aircraft, and if I am not wrong ADA was very much interested in developing the Tejas Mk3 with 5th generation features. So J20 or not it’s time that ADA start work on Tejas Mk3 if we don’t want the MMRCA.


    Joydeep Ghosh

  37. Hilarious... is that it sounds like... hillary... f-35 problems... its ends are loose... and coming loose... by the day... no by the second... in the same breath... you spoke of EF & DR... in comparison to J20... you havn't spoken... that is for everyone else... seen... that is hilarious... or hillary clinton on back ur back... or...

  38. Dear Col. Shukla,

    Why is India not diverting the money about to invest in PAK-FA development to F-35? They stand to gain more. After what we have seen with what has happened with our aircraft carrier why is this not a better approach?

  39. On the 4rth of November 2011 it would be more or less certain whether the MMRCA contract is scrapped or one of the two aircraft is finally selected . Even if the procurement cost is high the IAF would go for it. though the prospect of F-35 being considered may be bright but it seems rather unrealistic that it would be delivered before 2017-18 or even later. More so the SU-50 (PAKFA) fighters would be ready for serial production in a few years. The Migs are rapidly ageing and crashes have become a regularity. with the LCAs also getting delayed from where the new aircraft will come and that too on a fast track basis. SU-30MKIs wont be enough since the PAK-CHINA nexus is well known.MMRCAs seem to be the right way.F-35's could have a role later if required.Cost seems to be the only issue with the MMRCA.It would be interesting to see whether the SU-50 PAKFA or the cloaked J-20 proves to be a better 5th gen fighter of the two.

  40. Good Article Ajai,

    All those who say J-20 is a paper tiger yet, so dont worry about it! WHAT if it turns out to be a Real Dragon? Arent you guys making the same mistake made by Nehru in 62 or all the previous rulers in India who were over confident or not so much serious about the threats? Even if J-20 turns out to be a RAT, it should not stop India from getting the best fighter.

    About FGFA- I have done some reasearch, I found a lot about its agility but I dont find much where russians says it has the best stealth or better stealth than American Aircrafts. I think as Indians we should assert outrself better and stop thinking like a third world nation.

    Only concerns is It will be hard to negotiate with US on Certain changes or any modifications or improvements we want to do with the aircraft on our own.

    If beurocrasts can adress that, I am all for F-35

  41. Dear Mr Shukla,
    Our intellectual integrity is right here. C-130J and C17 that you are talking about are bought on our terms, on the price we could afford and with instruments that we want and without those we don't want, nothing less and nothing more. We said plain and simple NO to intrusive agreements so that we have complete independence in terms of usage of bought hardware. This is completely opposite to buying F-35 on a price we can't afford and on terms dictated by US with no access to software codes that we need.

  42. The F-35 can hold India hostage only during the positive period between the operational ability of T-50 Sukhoi Vs J-20. This equation gets automatically dissolved once this period turns out to be negative.

    However you provide ample justifications for purchasing not a single more aircraft for the MMRCA than the specified 126 Nos. Extending the same logics it can be said that India should never purchase more than 40 Nos of F-35 even under duress.

    Looking in to the economic condition of USA, in the world of wishes F-35 must be the foremost to wish the earliest expedition of the progress of the J-20.

    F-35 and J-20 both suffer from some or other forms of inadequacies, which may not permit them to extract their full potential and growth. Both of these are based upon half baked technologies only to provide some ad-hoc solutions.

  43. Dear Ajay
    These people wont't hear you.
    better if you have any leverage with MoD.
    But i want to say to these folks that in international relations no country is friend of other.
    Whether russia, france or us all will take decisions in their own interest otherwise we russia charged huge sum for gorshkov and insist on buying Mig-29K from them.
    USA see its future with India for their own interest and i think time is reap for us to shake full hand to insure that our future security requirements are met.
    Theses are same people who would condemn USA for attack on Iraq and describe the war for oil and still criticise even one rupee rise in Oil.
    Dear all
    wake up If india to really become world power we need to walk up If China has its say Delhi walas won't get water even to drink let alone bath.
    Security challenges ahead of India are enormous, The day India give even hint of crossing China in economic & defence, china will initiate war against India. It cannot otherwise justify its tyrannical Governance system.

    Pakistan & is other problem and for all these reasons India need Latest Tech in defence. try to learn from Israel & how it make sure USA is standing ahead of it face bullet. India don't need USA for that role but must leverage its status to get most of it. Hope I made my point. I am not affiliated to any company

  44. The only deliveries that have been made on time (for quite some time) have been the ones with US.

    We must factor in time and cost overruns in all our calculations. Buying some thing that is cheaper by 30% but arrives 3 yrs late has more serious consequences because it throws the whole planning exercise into a dustbin.

    With US, all purchases done in the last few years have been delivered right-on time, and in a configuration we asked and paid for.

  45. @Ajai

    Lets forgot about the Air force.

    What is the state of AN/TPQ Firefinder radar that your branch of defense forces have/had ? Is that working now ? Is the spares reliable / available 'unlike Russians' ?

  46. Ajai,
    A genuine advice.....Be a bit civil and avoid being perceived as immature...you are reacting like a young hotblooded guy who just can't sit in the same room as others who disagree with him....

    The country needs an aircraft not promises....being a businessman interacting with Americans on a regular basis, my experience has been that they are very smooth talkers and masters at marketing...you can't just take everything at face value just because some official said so...specially when the same official has a stake in your decision...IAF has tested the 6 aircraft, and does not depend on marketing talk anymore, it has hard, undeniable data on which it has based its decision.....Let's appreciate this fact....

    also, you berate the fgfa but create an aura around the j20...of which nobody knows anything...any specific reason for this, because this for an independent, intelligent and unbiased reader looks like asymmetric journalism...

  47. I enjoy most of your articles, I seriously do.... but all your pieces on MMRCA or F-35 are intellectually lazy at best and intentionally misleading at worse.

    First, despite knowing fully well that neither F-35 nor J-20 are true fighters, you choose to compare them with MMRCA aircraft and what's worse, imply that they will come out ahead. All analysis has shown that J-20 is meant to be a anti-shipping long range bomber meant to be deployed in the South China sea or Pacific ocean - not for air-to-air combat.

    Second, no mention of FGFA in your argument - again, I know that you are well aware of the program, but choose not to mention it - amounts to intellectual dishonesty. PAK-FA completed first flight years before J-20, so will achieve operational clearance much before J-20. What's more, FGFA is designed to be much closer in performance to F-22 (a true stealth fighter) than either F-35 or J-20.

    Your choosing to spout half-truths does nothing more than tarnish your reputation and obscure the few valid points your argument might have. For shame.....

  48. @Joydeep Ghosh

    You are right one count that Ajai himself have told that India needs ground attach fighters like F35 and now, he wants that,instead of a air supremacy fighter, to be fighting J20s.

    You are also wrong when you say that you need Gripen NG. Gripen NG would mean closing Tejas development, which falls in the same category. Combat radius of Gripen is too less and have to place the fighters close to the border. Rafale / Typhoon can be placed deep inside and range extended by mid air refuelers. So Gripen won't be a good choice.

  49. Dear sir Broadsword,

    You might want to know that the US government takes into account a $89M flyaway cost figure. That's in 2016 - that of 2015 is $99M. See http://www.saffm.hq.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-110211-038.pdf .

    Kind regards,

  50. Shukla please tell me how much you got from usa for this Article....

  51. Amit says...

    My Shukla has a history of taking sides. First the DRDO bought him with unlimited access to their facilities. He responded by trashing the T-90 (and the Army's reputation). Now he's been bought by the American's and is trashing the MMRCA and the Air Force.

    This entire article is hairbrained. If MMRCA is shelved, the new process is likely to take years. Second, is the alternative he proposes anywhere close to operational clearence.

    Well done Shukla ji. Aapne swarath ke liye desh to bech do. Well done indeed.

  52. If the J-20 has taken its first flight, so has the PAK-FA. If at all the J-20 comes to light with all its bells & whistles, the FGFA should take care of that. The more immediate need is to shore up the squadron strength of the IAF to fight a battle of attrition with the Chinese. There is no way the F-35 can come up that fast as the MMRCA can. Also the qualitative superiority cannot offset quantitative superiority entirely.

  53. There are too many comments to comments at.

    But one thing is claer : Ajay Shukla is fired.

    Not necessarily for good reasons but there can not be smoke without fire.

    You are being illogical colonel or shall we say you are now a journalist and no langer a Colonel (though I am no one to take away that title from you which you richly deserve, Colonel !)

  54. Since there are lot of comments on the topic, let me add mine!

    F-35 is no doubt a beautiful aircraft, probably the most advantage.I would say even better compared to F-22, as F-22 is 90's tech.

    Our fundamental problem is that India just does not have the supporting infrastructure to really really utilize such a machine. A fighter aircraft is just the tip of the sword. Just can be seen from the USAF war machine, it's USAF's ability to exploit spectrum, detection systems, network eccentricity is the most lethal part.

    Even in the case of J-20, PLAF's supporting infrastructure is missing. The worst a fighter jet can do it fire a BVR or drop PGM.

    If IAF decides to invest heavily on ECM against PLAAF BVR and manages to beat it, what can J-20 do?

    As I grow older, I am coming to understand that there are thousands of things done before a single bullet is fired in a war! A massive Spectrum warfare on a enemy crippling his C3I,detection system, would greatly reduce the ability of a 5th gen aircraft.

    I would ask the IAF to invest more in their detection to kill loop.


  55. Mr.Shukla, are u really hoping the IAF would read your article and get a change of mind? well, lets hope so..but if it doesn't, then I hope u won't be the journalist who wud post "I SAID SO!!" on your blog sitting in Virginia or Washington, the day J-20 strikes Delhi and two great civilizations end in smoke and ashes..lot of war mongers already on the planet..lets not destroy what we are trying to secure.

  56. I happen to know a great deal about the PAK-FA programme. And you’ll have to wait to read about it, which I promise will happen soon.

    Gotcha! You say that you know a great deal about the PAK-FA program, at least enough to arrive at an informed conclusion about its prospects. Fair enough.

    But what, pray tell, do you *really* know about the so-called "J-20"? The sum total of our knowledge of this bird can be put into one sentence: "it is a largish black fighter with an angular shape that has had one known test flight". Yet, you pronounce it to be a "fifth generation fighter"** capable of tackling any threat the IAF can throw at it in the future. That is not going to happen anytime soon, sir! Even a cursory look at Chinese airfields tells me that those high-altitude airstrips are not going to let heavy fighters take of with significant war loads. Moreover, the logistics requirements of Su-27/Su-30 class fighters are such that the PLAAF won't be able to sustain large force levels of heavy fighters anyway.

    Also, are you under the impression that the J-20 will be the only fighter in the PLAAF? They are also buying conventional fighters in numbers, including the J-10 and J-11. Why then, is the IAF being derided for purchasing the MMRCA?

    Coming to the F-35, if you think it will be available for $65 million a pop, may I interest you in a Russian aircraft carrier? It's available for free, or so I hear. No sir, the F-35 won't cost $35 million (even a made-in-India Su-30 costs more TODAY). And with all the delays and cost overruns, I don't see how the IAF is going to get its hands on one anytime in the near future. Also, with all the troubles plaguing the F-22, I'd be surprised if those don't carry over into the F-35 as well. The IAF is already taking a *huge* risk with the FGFA as it is. Why bring more uncertainty into the equation now?

    Your argument that practically every modern fighter project has suffered delays, and hence the F-35's delays do not matter, is a strawman. Indeed these fighters have been delayed, and yes, the F-35 has, until now at least, has fared better than the Typhoon. But the fact remains that both the Typhoon and the Rafale are in operational service today, while the F-35 isn't even close to IOC. And who is to say that the F-35's path to FOC will be smooth? How acn you be sure that it would be in production "in a couple of years"?

    **how does one define a fifth generation fighter anyway? There is no standard terminology about fighter generations as far as I can remember.

  57. Oy Colonel

    See this regarding the cost.


  58. "The PAK-FA is not a fifth generation fighter, and will never be unless India funds every paisa of the Russian R&D that is needed to make it so. I happen to know a great deal about the PAK-FA programme"

    Didnt you just use the same arguement to say that once the F-35 is in production all the whining will be forgotten....? Similarly once the PAK-FA is in production, all the delays will be forgotten.

    So why not go with an aircraft that is already in testing and an ally which is more trustworthy?

  59. Dear Col. Shukla,

    Thanks again for your article. It was interesting to hear your opinion on things even though I may not fully agree with them.

    The F-35 is an amazing aircraft and better in terms of EW, networking, and software than any fighter out there including the F-22. Analyst everywhere agree that when it arrives nothing will be able to compete with it in its capability set except for maybe the F-22 in certain areas. I agree with you that buying the F-35 would be a much better option than the EF or Rafale, but only in an ideal world.

    Countries don't have allies, they have interests. Predicting what interests a county may have in 20-30 years can be suicidal. That being said I agree with earlier posts stating that India is showing itself as an emerging global power by not buying the F-35. The same can be argued for the PAKFA, but Russia has proven itself to be a reliable partner. The same cannot be said about the US.

    Honestly, I see why you are arguing for the JSF I just think that the claims of the J-20 being a game changer are untrue.

    I have not been keeping up with the analysis for the J-20, but as far as I know the analyst are predicting that due to the size of the J-20 it is most likely a fighter-bomber than a Air superiority fighter. There is no information on the public domain as far as I know about the stated role of the J-20.This would not be the game changer that some state it would be if fielded across the Himalayas (If they fielded a true 5th gen air superiority fighter than it would be).

    Also, the commentary from the analyst says that the Chinese don't really know what they're doing yet. Several different design philosophy's are seen in the aircraft that cause awkward design flaws that reduce its' stealthiness.

    You know better than I do Col. Shukla, that stealth is fleeting. The right counter measures employed by the IAF can even neutralize the advantages of stealth fielded by the US air force. As far as the J-20 is concerned, it is not an issue the IAF should worry about (the Pentagons known about the J-20 since the early 2000s and it was not alarmed). What the IAF and the world should worry about is what the Chinese will field as a follow on to the J-20. Even then India will have reestablished its' fighter strength and built a new SAM network that will be difficult to break.

    Add to that the unforgiving Himalayas and the difficulty in attacking across them to the sheet and India should not be worried.

  60. You know if one wants to be a leader one should lead from the front. A leader leads and ONLY follows for strategic reasons such as checking if the team has got motivation and direction. Constantly buying from overseas will never give India a world power status.Why not assert for partnership even it be a 10% stake to start with?Think of a chess game - one needs to think in advance rather than try and block a move to prevent checkmate because 9/10 times one will then face a checkmate.All this talk of buying only makes others rich. No point trying to look like a superman wearing the underwear outside!

  61. Prasun K Sengupta says, "The arguments of BROADSWORD are devoid of logical reasoning and his replies are absolutely atrocious, to say the least. I agree that several queries or arguments may seem pointless or even stupid, but that’s no way to reply. In any interactive blog civility must never be surrendered, no matter whatever is the level of provocation. I can therefore only conclude that his rebuttals are the byproducts of his mental challenged nature." Would the defence like to make any remarks?

  62. Shukla sir,
    From one angle, yes, it sounds foolish to go for 4th generation fighters. But you are missing the point somewhere.

    1. Do you really think that US would replace its huge numbers of F16s and F18s with F35s and F22s ?

    I think, it is going to take a long time even for the US to replace huge numbers of F16s and F18s, if it is their plan. What I am trying to stress is, numbers are important for every country, including India. Even though transition from non stealth to stealth happens eventually, it is going to take decades to reach the required numbers.

    Cost is another factor but you are saying China is another factor.

    Without comparing J20s (which is still in the drawing board) and PA-FA (which has already done several test flights), how can you come into conclusion that PAK-FA is not worth it?

    Don't forget that China depends on Russia for engines even for its 3rd and 4th generation fighters.
    (AL-31F engines for J10s and J11s) Forget about J20 engines. Yes, China would get it from Russia, as they are doing now.

    Without knowing the RCS of both PAK-FA and J20, how can you come into a conclusion?

    Please refrain from low end lobbying for Lockheed Martin with out presenting technical facts. You see, people are not fools. It just shows you in a bad light.

  63. Some more responses from me!

    Firstly… to the many people urging me to be more civil. I’m not civil, I’m military. When I get a civil response (and many of the later responses to my F-35 article are civil, even in their frank disagreement with me) I am quite happy to reason, explain, and even modify my views (though I haven’t in this case!). I learn a great deal from some of the visitors who post on my blog… some are clearly thinking, well-informed people.

    But when the sum and substance of a response is: “you’ve been bought out by the Americans”… please don’t expect a civil response!

    Secondly… a very widespread argument seems to be: we’ll tackle the J-20 with the FGFA. Are you suggesting that we buy an inferior fighter today in the expectation that we’ll have a better one later, courtesy the Russians?

    Well, no thanks. I’ll take the superior fighter today, even if I’m getting a superior fighter a decade later. This is not rocket science. This is not even strategy. It is common sense.

    And for those who say that the FGFA will be superior to the J-20… I can only say that they must have a crystal ball that I don’t. None of us can say with any confidence that the FGFA will be superior to the J-20. And, looking at the trajectories of Russia on the one hand, and China on the other, I am willing to bet a magnum of champagne that the J-20 (regardless of where it is today) will be a superior product to the FGFA in the 2020s. The Russians simply don’t have the will any longer.

    But we’re getting diverted here! The point I’m making is this: since we don’t know what exactly the J-20 will be, good strategy demands that we assume that it will be a damn fine 5th generation fighter… and that we prepare to deal with it. (Incidentally, I’m in absolute agreement with the poster who made the point about ground systems being crucial in this respect. But they will not obviate the need for superior fighters).

    And thirdly… for the jerks (and I’m being polite here on popular demand) who have nothing to offer except “you’ve been bought over by America”… at least get your big picture right. Perhaps you should allege, “you’ve been bought over by Lockheed Martin”. In a free market like America, where LM’s competition with Boeing is perhaps even more fierce than its competition with Sukhoi or Eurofighter, being bought over by America is not a valid concept.

  64. @Anonymous 21.36

    Thanks for the response but i think you have not read my comments that are in 2 parts.

    Please go through both the parts to figure what I said and why.

    What I said about Jas 39 Gripen was in regards to the unfair treatment given to it. Whatever I said about Gripen NG was with the perspective that if it was selected, which is not the case as IAF committed a 'Harakiri' and changed its requirements mid way when Gripen couldnt back out having invested huge bucks on the NG.

    As for now the it about selecting between Rafale and Typhoon, the benchmarking prospects and the viability of JSF F-35.

    If the Lockheed/US MoD guys agree to full ToT transfer including source codes and design then it will a matter to think about seriously

    Lets hope better sense prevails everywhere. awaiting your response


    Joydeep Ghosh

  65. we’ll tackle the J-20 with the FGFA. Are you suggesting that we buy an inferior fighter today in the expectation that we’ll have a better one later, courtesy the Russians?


    I can't speak for the others here, but the argument is that it is pointless to assume that the MMRCA is being procured to go head-to-head with the J-20, and then proceed to compare the two.

    Rather, I would suggest that we buy a highly capable strike fighter based on its own merits and suitability for its role as envisioned by the IAF, and leave the job of taking on enemy aerial assets to dedicated air dominance fighters like the FGFA.

    The FGFA is NOT going to be a replacement for the MMRCA.

    I’ll take the superior fighter today, even if I’m getting a superior fighter a decade later

    How is that position consistent with you plugging for the F-35??

  66. Superb timing of the Lockheed PR machinery: Pentagon awaits India's interest in fighter jetshttp://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/pentagon-awaits-indias-interest-in-fighter-jets/articleshow/10577099.

  67. well either people have to believe that u have gone cuckooo (considering ur background and the argument to ditch mmrca) or believe that americans bought u off.

    Since ur replies have been reasonable enough the possibility that u r cuckooo looks slim, hence it looks likely the second option is true.

  68. MIHIR - could it be an alias of Prasun K Sengupta?

  69. Prasun K. Sengupta (popularly known as Chor) dropped the bombshell, here's his reply, to quote:

    By ‘growing school of thought’ are you referring to a certain broadcast-media entity that runs the blog called BROADSWORD? And if yes, then has he or his Lockheed Martin buddies ever stopped to ask why exactly China refers to the J-20 as a 4th generation combat aircraft, and not a 5th generation product? Has he or his Lockheed Martin buddies ever gone to China to the successive biennial Airshow China expos held in Zhuhai, where the latest R & D achievements of China are showcased? Does he or his Lockheed Martin buddies even know what kind of integrated avionics suites will go on board the J-20? Can he or his Lockheed Martin buddies explain why is China continuing to import legacy turbofans like AL-31FN and continues to aspire importing passive phased-array radars like the IRBIS if at all China’s national R & D institutes have achieved successful breakthroughs in critical areas like supercruise-generating turbofans and AESA-MMRs? Has he or his Lockheed Martin buddies ever visited any operational air base in either the Chengdu or Lanzhou MRs to see the state of force modernisation efforts there? Has he or his Lockheed Martin buddies ever visited the MAKS 2011 expo and spoken to those involved in the R & D efforts involving the FGFA/PMF and T-50 PAK-FA? The answer to all these questions is likely to be ‘NO’. Consequently, what he’s doing is judging a book by its cover. That doesn’t surprise me at all, especially since folks of his ilk like Arnab Goswami or TIMES NOW & the editorial team of HEADLINES TODAY have, since yesterday, bid goodbye to objective research and instead resorted to needless warmongering and belching out outrageous assessments about China’s gun-running activities in northeast India and about China’s ‘superior’ military posture vis-à-vis India along the LAC. The simple fact, for instance, remains that the there is only one full-time operational PLAAF air base throughout the Tibetan Plateau and that is Shigatse AB, from where J-10As and Su-27SKs conducted a month-long exercise starting last August, and this same schedule was first tried out in 2010. Shigatse is also the only air base that is protected by a permanent KS-1A MR-SAM site with TAR, and the rest of the ‘airfields’ quoted elsewhere are just commercial airports. So what on earth is this so-called unbearable and overwhelming PLAAF expeditionary airpower superiority all about? Seems to me that as usual the Indian broadcast media (TIMES NOW, NDTV & HEADLINES TODAY included) is just running around like headless chicken without any sense of self-esteem.

    What do you say to this Sir?

  70. @Ajai sir

    there is a saying in Hindi

    "Doodh ka Jala Chaas bhi Phook ke Peeta Hai"

    After so many sanctions on Indian companies (pub/pvt) and some companies still on US sanction list, and even those systems purchased from US devoid of key systems owing to India refusal to toe US line of signing BECA, CISMOA that basically makes these systems a handicap, do you really think we can make do US systems without worrying about being put in 'Trishunku' situation

    Your views please


    Joydeep Ghosh

  71. Ajay u r right , many viewers speaks opposite due to we are in final stage on mmrca after wasting successful decades( irritated ) of time .
    we need F-35 in IAF it also helps US to support us in future war against Pak/Chinks, but for that we don,t need to cancel MMRCA .

    we need to go for 40-70 nos separately (in lieu of additional / optional 63 nos from mmrca).

    MoD needs to increase sqn sanction strength from 34.5 sqn to 49.5 sqn. to face two brutal neighbors we need massive numbers , but not just words . need to increase sqn strength along with longer range SAM .

  72. media, govt,HAL and DRDO are helping each other to amass corrupt transaction in their foreign banks.

    Hope most have rad about Suxnet virus in Iran's nuclear reactor, where the creator was given the source code of semen's systems's.
    The current bead of Indian scientist are selected based on their cast, religion or region with very little brain's. Indian's should understand no one has won war by using foreign made weapons. You have to develop your systems, else be begging with begging bowl for centuries to come.

  73. Hey, we need 4+ gen fighters as first line of defense, especially in conflicts. We cannot risk costly 5th gen planes for every use. 4+ gen fighters are by no mean obsolete. They are here to stay and work till 2035 at least.

  74. Well, I dont know whether this has already been mentioned by the others who have commented before me.
    MMRCA is not only the procurement of the aircrafts but also builds economic ties with the respective country(ies).
    Juts google up what the EU promises.
    All that plus the technology transfer, which the US will not do and also the US is know to cut the selling of spare parts(eg: Pakistan f-16).
    So overall MMRCA is the way to go for INDIA.
    And btw I hope the AMCA rolls out on time unlike the LCA.

  75. Broadsword

    A few corrections, the 65 million US$ by unit its not the "Fly Away Unit Cost", by the simple reason that the "FAUC" is a USAF acounting number wich is public (in here: http://www.saffm.hq.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-110211-038.pdf page 57 to 59).
    Directly to the point, the "Fly Away Unit Cost" for every single F-35A (for the USAF) his estimated to be 89.319 million Us$ if (a gigantic if) all the 2443 "Daves´s" are bought by the Pentagon.
    There are two probable explanations for the "65 million US$", one, outright lie by a LM representative, it has happened in the past... Or, two, a LM estimate for the "Recurring Fly Away Unit Cost" ("Recurring" subtle diference, but a completely diferent ball game, and a useless number if we are talking in exporting an USA weapon system) in some nebulous future (not 2015).

  76. Hi Ajai,

    I am no expert in Aviation, but avid follower of your blog and other similar things about defence.

    if someone analyses your posts (staunch oppossition for dilution of offset or pun intended sarcasm about the BAE inviting you to visit them), can have a fair bias that you are unbiased and non-corrupt

    But for long I have suspected if we have been paying through the nose an inflated figure for all the military purchses we made via FMS? esp C-17 and C-130J considering how much Aussies have paid for the same aircraft?

    The best aircraft (your opinion) in the world (that is up for sale at the moment), But at what price?

  77. This article is atrocious.

    How can Eurofighter be chastised for internal problems such as a shrinking production quota while the F-35's similar problems despite being very well known are completely ignored! The boldness of the double standards is remarkable, the article holds the reader to a very low standard.

    Additionally how can an article on India’s next generation fighter purchases be written without even a line on the PAK-FA? Its a glaring omission that makes one wonder why it was made? Revelations on the PAK-FA not being a 5th generation aircraft does not cut it, if there is evidence then make that accusation, if not then why deceive the lay reader into believing there is no other 5th generation acquisitions?

    The authors personal bias towards the F-35 has long been known and tolerated, but this is the limit. One can only say how reassuring it is from the comments that the readership is not as stupid as the article expects them to be.

    It is unfair however to say the author is under someone else’s pay. There is more than enough wrong with the article to avoid giving bribery as a straw man by which the author can dismiss criticism. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and lets face it no self respecting company would pay for this!

  78. Reading through all of these posts one of the consistent threads is that Col Shukla has been bought out by Lockheed Martin.

    His articles seems very nicely synchronised with statement from the US Department of defence stating that they are eagerly awaiting an enquiry about the F35 by the Indian air force. This is unlikely to be mere coincidence.

    Col Shukla is acting like nothing more than a Lockheed Martin pawn. Looks like he has had a lot of meetings with Lockheed Martin executives recently, as he states himself (where some big bags of cash must have been passed underneath the table).

    Col Shukla is an intelligent man with excellent writing skills. Some of his articles which I have read have been truly excellent. Unfortunately, I will always view whatever he writes in the future with a high degree of suspicion regarding his true motives. He has lost his credibility with me, and with other readers. This is very sad indeed.

    Col Shukla, please reverse this hara-kiri, and become the sensible intelligent defence analyst that I know and love.....think about long-term gains rather than short-term gains. Once you lose your credibility in front of your readership, you will never be able to reverse the damage.


  79. Col,

    keep up the passion I think you are a patriot and no one has bought u off......I think, u like I and millions of others worry about a future conflict where India gets squeezed and our politicians buckle because of a colonial / buracratic mindset......however I think you are wrong on this call.

    1. I would love to leapfrog technology and unlike the anti US brigade I think cosying up to the US and other nations is in India's interests. However I think there is a place for mmrca finalists (which I understand are bloody close to 5th gen) in our force composition especially as we have "5th gen" programs in the works. The tech ( ESA etc) and political alliance for other tech is one of the mmrca jewels not to mention the offset. We should by transports, apaches etc etc from the US but spreed the largesse to build partnerships and not just import the next wonderful thing.

    2. In Australia, there is serious debate going on about the merits of the F35 and it's effectivness....a lot of people think aus should not go for it and get super hornets or others instead, heck even economists (what would they know) think the plane won't be able to withstand su30s.

    3. India needs a quicker implement of major sword systems especially missles, artiliary and SAMs. The f35 would not be in India before 2020 ( after t50 fingers crossed). Though the us industrial might could churn them out like sausages the back order for partner countries are to great not to mention the us needs itself hence 2020.

    3. I think we need good Capable systems in numbers not exceptional in handfuls, this thinking is also being given light inthe Us. So Save the cash and buy more because I know from analysis in aus the planes are going to cost way more then 65m unless you don't want the helmet sights, ew, counter measures, engines etc .

    keep up the debate and great blog .....civility only gets you so far so don't worryabout getting a little angry.

    Pritesh - Sydney aus

  80. Colonel,

    These wanker trolls simply don't deserve any explanation, it doesn't matter whether you are right or wrong write for money or in national interest, whatever it is, its none of there business, and please tell them that shouting on a blog is easier compared to shouting at India Gate. If they want change, they want a powerful India they should get ready to eat dirt and change the fortunes of this country.

    Sarvada Shaktishali

  81. I have never seen such a poorly argued article. You are either deliberately selective or just ignorant. Not an accusation I expected to see levelled at you col.

    This is more Times Now than Business Standard. Do we need to now call you Arnab?

    Your sense of your own infallibility is also most unbecoming.


  82. $65 mil for a JSF-35 pop is a cool cool price. If it comes so cheap lets buy a few dozens of them for our Navy, but only after it successfully completes IOC and FOC... fair enough!!! ?

    On the contrary here is a news article from an equally serious news organization Reuters

    "The F-35 is the Pentagon's costliest weapons procurement program. The radar-evading aircraft is being developed with eight international partners and officials estimate it will cost $382 billion for 2,447 of the jets for the U.S. military"

    IF I DO THE MATH, THIS AMOUNTS TO $156.109 MIL A POP. Do you mean to say that it is a typo in Reuters reporting ?

    I am posting a comment in your blog after a long long time so please respond! Eagerly looking fwd to hear from you..

    Reference : http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/03/usa-defense-india-fighter-idUKN1E7A11VL20111103?type=companyNews

  83. Hi Col. Shukla,

    Having read your article and some of your responses to some of the criticism, I have a few observations.

    1. Just like every army needs a mix of soldiers: special forces, mech infantry, armoured corps, artillery, an air force needs a mix of fighters. You can't have only one kind of fighter because there are multiple roles & missions. Similarly the PLA AF won't have only J20s & India should not have only fifth gens.

    2. That said, the MMRCA is meant to replace an ageing fighter fleet that still comprises Mig21s, etc. It is not an air superiority replacement. Even Japan & Singapore, which you mention, won't ONLY f35s. Nor will the US or Israel.

    3. The PAKFA is much farther along in its development than the J20. We know of the PAKFA's capabilities. We know nothing of the J20s capabilities other than Chinese blogosphere "claims" that it is a fifth gen fighter. At this stage I will at best assume the capabilities & delivery times to be equal.

    4. You yourself say it requires India's commitment to make the PAKFA a reliable fifth gen fighter. While you advocate buying the F35 instead would you rule out making that commitment to PAKFA? Better to have full control over a capable fifth gen than limited control over a super-capable one, right?

  84. Gents,

    Have a good read of this:


    India seems to have assumed it's natural role in Central/South Asia.

    Remember what i said before: who dares wins

  85. I am surprised to see some nasty comments against the article. It is only common sense to buy the most modern technology when you intend to use the aircraft for next 40 years. I would not write-off J-20 considering technological innovation has really picked up in China (telecom equipment companies ZTE Corp. and Huawei are leading examples of that). Given that we are going to spend over $ 15bn on MMRCA deal, (not a small amount for a country with per capita income of less than $1500) we should not buy anything which becomes obsolete within 5 years of purchase (we can’t afford).

    We unfortunately have a not-so-friendly neighbor in China which is an emerging world power. We would not be able to match them in all aspects of warfare (Space tech, Cruise missiles, number of aircrafts etc). We fortunately have this opportunity to choose an aircraft which even though may be more than what we may really need to counter their aircrafts, will compensate for some inadequacy elsewhere.

  86. We dont want any f35 and dont distract us, US keep double game with some one else,and go watch the cabability of false35

  87. And, looking at the trajectories of Russia on the one hand, and China on the other, I am willing to bet a magnum of champagne that the J-20 (regardless of where it is today) will be a superior product to the FGFA in the 2020s. The Russians simply don’t have the will any longer.

    Regardless of the merits of your other arguments, this one makes no sense. National rajectories are not relevant here: technical and design capabilities, track record and experience are.

    The Chinese have given us remodelled Russian junk so far. The Russians have produced world class warplanes since the 1940s. The burden of proof lies on the J-20 rather than the FGFA for world class quality.

  88. sorry My Shukla, but all your arguments, especially the rebuttals are uncinvincing to say the least.

    perhaps the Indian Army could persue the line for F-35 as a tactical fighter that it is touted as.

    Perhaps having earned your brownies with the Army chiefs "age" related issues you could force this issue.

    warm regards

  89. Mr.Shukla I am not surprized by reading your article bcoz I expected it from you.From the time when American aeronotic giants(LM&Boieng) are thrown out of MMRCA you started criticize MMRCA.
    IAE is not making HaraKiri but you do HaraKiri by writing this article.

  90. sure... this is pure... acknowledgement of our capabilities... vis-a-vis... lca tejas... and what is next to follow... vastly superior & capable... amca... what else there can be... say about... this...

  91. This is tdblog@rediffmail.com.
    I found one thing very seriously missing.
    F-22=Twin engine
    J-20=Twin engine
    T50/PakFa=Twin engine

    F35=Single engine

    How will F-35 even beat a J-20 with single engine, less fuel space cause J20 was made much longer to accommodate long range through higher fuel capacity.

    Also when we shall and china shall get into stealth wars by 2020+ there will be a war between missiles & UCAVs, not pilot based planes.

    The MMRCA is assuring a survival for an immediate threat which is emanating from China right now as I write or read an article. Who will save us from the 1000 J10s that china has manufactured. I think the F22 being the only aircraft has faced huge issues, like grounding of the entire fleet just a couple of months back. I dont think we should worry about China's stealth, cause India as a country only is preparing for a second strike and not a primary attack on China or China's Pakistan.

    Infact it feels like the article is not by you, but has been forced onto your blog for all the wrong intentions.

  92. Ajai ji

    Since you are still continuing to disrepute the MMRCA, as I have told you earlier, I am repeating the same thing again with some additional inputs:

    A stealth aircraft is needed when you are on a strike mission, either tactical or strategic deep into enemy territory because it has an element of surprise in it and the reaction time(like scrambling fighters to intercept it) of enemy becomes very less. Now I fail to understand how an agile 4+ gen fighter can not intercept a 5th gen fighter in the sky. The most technologically advanced radar is AESA radar. A 4+ aircraft can have this and so also a 5th gen fighter. So instead of spending a huge amount of taxpayers money into an unproven, unknown commodity, isn't it better if half the money can be used to upgrade avionics and radar of 4+ fighters like a Su-30 MKI or MMRCA winner who are more agile and manuverable in the sky than F-35? We Indians and IAF are basically groomed to be defence minded people. As Sunil Shetty said in Border "Hum to kisi ki dharti maa k taraf aankh uthake bhi nehi dekhte par itna bujhdil bhi nehi hai saab ji ki koi hamari dharti maa ki taraf dekhe aur hum chup chap se sahan kar le". In that context I think F-35 is a costly misadventure at this stage.

    2)PLAAF is not going to retire its 4th gen fighters like j-10, j-11 which it is inducting in large numbers when j-20 comes along. We have our own 5th gen programmes. So instead of buying another 5th gen fighter which can prove to be a nightmarish experience when commes to supporting and maintaining it, we should use the money to expedite the FGFA and AMCA.

    3)Assuming we buy F-35, we will have to base it deeper into our territory so as to not to expose it to chinese surprise attack. F-35's combat radius with internal fuel is 1100 kms. Can we hope to reach deeper into Mainland China with that range? If we take the help of external fuel tanks, then weapon load has to be decreased.

    4)USAF and PLAAF have large airforces; so thy can afford to have different fighters corresponding to their air superiority and bomber missions. We cannot afford to do so. We will have to choose some degree of multirole aircraft as I totally agree with you that there is no such concept of true multirole fighters. That is why I will be dissapointed if we ultimately choose the Typhoon today,although I can guess why the IAF will choose it.

    5) And last but not the least, can we afford to fight America's covert war against China? Look at history and it is better to learn a lesson out of it. Having been working in an American MNC, I can assure you that the mentality and characteristics of any race in the world, whether Indian or American does not change anytime. Only its priorities change.

    However in the end, plz let me repeat that I am not from anti F-35 camp, and I will be more than happy if IAF or IN chooses the F-35 in the forseeable future. But that should be a separate project with either new funds allocated or if money is a constraint, taking the funds from that ROOBISH, ILLOGICAL, IDIOCRITIC, LENGHTY Mirage2000 upgrade deal. For God's sake, spare the MMRCA deal for that. We have had enough of delays.

    Thanks and Regards
    Rahul Samanta.

  93. Ajit Sir, I like US and infact live here. But MRCA acquisition is with respect to Indian concerns.
    With respect to your F-35 comments:
    1. F-35 is not fully developed and so I dont know how anyone can comment on its capabilities.
    2. American security experts claim F-35 to be a failure as they tried to accomplish three version - land, naval and air versions with the same model. See this - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQB4W8C0rZI
    3. F-35 is expensive plane with cost of $130 million per piece. This is price that was quoted to an European member country. Indian purchase of the same will be higher than that.
    4. With the purchase, there is no ToT on important parts, no codes are provided and Americans can use jammers.
    5. Without signing CIMSCO, America will not provide any kind of highend radars. If we sign the contract, we leave the country open to American inspections. You claim that India wants to be global power and then you would wish that India should open itself to inspections from a foreign country.

    Now regarding the purchase of Rafale or Eurofighter - both great planes. Indian purchase will uplift their respective economies and hence lobbying is intense and so will ToT and future co-development of military hardware.

    Now regarding to bugaboo regarding Chinese J-20. Remember, first of all it is Chinese. I am not aware of anything they have made that is made on their own, they only reverse engineer and too mostly Russian planes. So, most likely their J-20 will have some parts from F-22 (as Pentagon confirmed that some F-22 details were hacked by Chinese) and mostly PAKFA probably by the corrupt Russian scientists working for PAKFA. Even with all their efforts, they were not reverse engineer Su-30MKK and had to buy in huge chunks.

    Also, J-20 will be powered by Chinese engine- probably only one that works(?).

    We live in strange times when Mig-21 cant stay in air and kill our pilots, and how can you compare Chinese planes. They are good for Walmart, I will not put much weight into their capabilities into quality dimension. If your question is regarding quantity, then I would agree.

    So, in all your points raised by you, it seems it would be a raw deal for India if it goes for F-35. I am sure that our defence head will ask for ToT and codes which they will gracefully deny and this choice will nipped in the bud.

    Remember, no country has become global power by buying all its weapons from another country. ToT is only way to go and MRCA will provide us with just that!

  94. Agree with Col. Shukla's logic. If the idea of MMRCA is to purchase best available FA(technically), then JSF cannot be argued against.

  95. The people responsible for bidding for the MMRCA at the Pentagon, DoD, DoS, LM and Boeing should be asked to resign if they cant win this. To begin with it was a serious mistake to pitch the F-16 against an EF (air-air) and the F-18 against a Rafale (strike). They now need to pull all invisible strings and go in hook, line and sinker to partner with India. Tell Anthony that you will help develop the LCA and offer engine tech for the Kaveri, that will help turn the tide. This deal will be worth far more than 20 billion over the course of entire life of the aircraft and afterwards too for future deals, because this will be a long term partnership. Dont screw it up. South Asia will be far more peaceful with a defense partnership with the US than with any of the other countries in the competition.

  96. Shukla has shown his bhaiyaa roots. true son of behen mayawati and bhai mulayam. Now i understand why MNS beats these bhaiyyas.

  97. Sir,
    I do enjoy your articles and was saddened by the way this one was received by readers who questioned your integrity not only as a patriot, but also as a decent human being and a journalist.
    If any of the readers find this article lacking in any way, constructive criticism I, believe, will be welcome by the author as well as other readers. But unnecessary mud-slinging gets us nowhere.
    This being said, I would like to point out few areas of your article that I personally disagree with.

    1. “...It’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, has signaled in multiple ways that it would supply the IAF that fighter at a fly-away cost of $65 million per aircraft (significantly cheaper than the Rafale and the Typhoon) with deliveries beginning by 2015...”

    Many readers here do not know what the term fly-away cost means. It is the cost of an aircraft minus the R&D cost. That is, the marginal immediate production cost of building a single unit of the product. It also excludes future as well as supplementary costs.

    The fly-away cost of an F-35 as on March 11, 2010, was $ 112 million (WRT the exchange rate then) according to a report from the Government Accountability Office to the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services. That too of the block III version and not the block V with the software upgrades that the LM is going to undertake.
    India I believe will not be able to afford this aircraft plain and simple. Moreover, The LM is preparing for more delays and the block three version, even by optimistic standards will come out by late 2018. Then will it go through IOC and FOC.
    What I believe the IAF should do is go ahead with the MMRCA plan and then buy 46-63 F-35 Block VI after 2020-22.

    2. Your later trashing of Pak FA is another area where I disagree a bit.
    Even I, a journalist myself know that Pak FA has issues. Its famed AESA radar (even the L-band) is not ready, nor are the engines that the Russians said will power the bird. It does not have a superb data fusion capability nor an advanced cockpit. Hell, they couldn’t even come up with a bubble canopy. the airframe has a lot of edges and it will therefore not be very stealthy. Its engine nozzles too have disappointed
    Even here India will be denied the crucial tech as well as the source codes (so I hear, but I may be wrong). The 50:50 Indo-Russian JV is pure bulls**t. We will be paying for the R&D, and would be denied the tech.

    Even with all of this, I will say Pak FA is a better bet for India than F-35. because again the price, here we can buy 214+ aircraft and can go for more. Pak FA is aerodynamically superior and agile. F-35 can carry only two BVR missiles in its weapons bays, making it not so worth it. Why? Because Stealth is a relative term. A few little tweaks in the enemy’s radar will be enough to defeat a plane’s stealth. so F-35, Pak-FA and J-20 all of which are moderately stealthy, will not have much of a lead over the other in this respect. What will be the game-changer is EW, Radar, and Missile tech. here F-35 has the lead, but Russians have more exp than the Chinese here.

    3. You seem to have forgotten the offset clause of MMRCA. 50% of the money will have to be re-invested here. Eurofighter and Dassault seem desperate enough to agree to this LM won’t. They are willing to give ToT, LM won’t. Indian manufacturers will learn a lot from “co-producing” these planes, with LM, we won’t even get that. Our industry is not developed enough to tackle manufacture of an advanced bird like the F-35. with the LM capability of churning our a whopping 350+ F-35s per month, we will get no share in building it.

    So, In my opinion, do not scrap the MMRCA tender in favour of the F-35. Go ahead with the MMRCA but the IAF should not go for follow on orders. They should buy 62 F-35s. (However, it will give rise to a logistics nightmare the IAF will have to deal with. This can only be averted if the Navy too opts for the F-35).

  98. This deal would go upto 18 billion $ when its inked. Well, today when the bids opened, it has been upped to 15 bn $.

  99. Gentlemen,

    Although the 4th gen fighter will not be much of a match for the 5th gen plane, we must note that this aircraft has been developed in Cina. so 10 years down, when there is a real emergency, they will be able to do a continuous improvement, ramp production.
    If we agree to the COTS solution suggested by Ajai sir, then we will remain lame ducks....
    Home grown R&D is the only choice...

  100. Col. Shukla,
    I have been a avid follower of your blog for a fairly long time. Needless to say I have followed it due to its neutral and balanced writing. However, off late I have started wondering where the old "Broadsword" has vanished and why is it being replace by a lobbying platform.

    Sir your readers are mature and knowledgeable blokes who can make out a piece of Yellow Journalism from a mile. I suggest you keep your yellow journalism with the magazine you write for and restore your former balanced writing style on your blog.

    Thanks for every thing that you do.

  101. Here If I argue like Mr. Shuklaji, Wait for few years to get the best plane, then Iam sure we can buy the best ever manned fighter plane in 2100+(as there will be no more manned fighter plane, so buy the last best manned Aircraft) because always there is more advanced plane in the pipeline. Iam not an historian in fighter plane, may be Shuklaji please enlighten us about the best planes in the history. Let me ask some Qs, Does an enemy wait for you to buy the best plane.Survive today to fight for tomorrow. By the way always best fighting machines do not win the war may be they can win you battles(refer WW 2 battle tanks). To learn from our experiences Sabre was slayed by GNAT which was inferior fighter. Training, experience, strategy and the man behind the machines make the difference as shown by Israelis and Indians in their war history.

  102. we should all go by the logic of no war and just a war dance. India is indulging in such dance. they are buying the most expensive aircraft to scare the hell out of pakistan. if they have to match then a similar buy will make them bankrupt. Indian history is all about Elephants. we never won big wars with elephants but they did scare the most of the invaders including Alexander and Gehnghis Khan. this is one such Elephant buy.

  103. sir i have a few questions?
    1: As you previously said that u are a military man & u think in a military manner, sir i would presume that most military men are like minded, so why don't the current military planners influence their decision in favor of the JSF or does the mod take an upper hand in this.

    2: does the MOD fear that going for the JSF 35 would antagonize the Russians and we would run in trouble with the FGFA?

    3:would buying the JSF through the FMS without cismoa be an option and later we could ask Israel to customize it according to our needs as they would have the necessary source codes?
    4: is the deal going to the Europeans because of the Italian mafia??

  104. Shuklaji, you are a true Indian. Allow me to explain. We are so caught up in satyemev jayate we assume everyone else also is. You buy into marketing spiel about how the JSF will be available at $65M because senior ppl said so. Sir, with all due respect, they don't have crystal balls and the program is currently much more expensive than that. All said and done, better to buy a quasimature EF or a more mature Rafale than a completely untested still in development JSF.

  105. are you a real colonel???... or a masquerader???... i am told... a general will take to war/battle... a tank... that is battle proven... even it is... vintage WWII... rather than bet on a sophiscated tank on... drawing board... well you are not a general... this is very well obvious... did DR & EF was at bombimg... or smoking out... qhadaffi... as the great americans... would say... didn't see the... lightning II anywhere... in action...

  106. Seeing how 40+% of Indians are living in poverty, what is the justification in spending obscene amounts of money on this purchase? If defence against the Chinese is the objective, can't it be achieved cheaper by building/buying nuclear weapons and deploying them in allied nations similar to NATO's strategy against the Soviets?

  107. Ajai,

    You say that Rafale will cost Brazil $6.2 billion for 36 fighters. And even this is a discounted price. That comes to a $172 million unit cost for the rafale. And you quote trustworthy Brazilian sources.

    UAE wants to buy 60 Rafale fighters. And the figure being quoted in the media is $10 billion.
    That comes to a $166 million unit cost.

    So I think we can safely say the Rafale costs above $150 million.

    On the other hand, an F-35 will definitely cost less than $150 million per unit.

    The unit costs for the Typhoon seem to be less than that of the Rafale based on figures concerning the Saudi Arabia deal ($110 million). So why does everyone think that Typhoons are more expensive than Rafales ?

    It seems pretty clear to me that the Rafales are more expensive than both Typhoons and F-35's.

    Ajai, even you think the Typhoon is more expensive than Rafale. But you didnt quote any specific figures.

    Please give some clarity Ajai.

  108. 1. The JSF's unit cost is over $135 Million now, according to 2011 budget figures of Government Accountability Office. I don't care what an LM exec told you. It is a pile of... well, lies.

    2. The JSF is expected to get IOC in 2018, hoping there are no more delays in the program.

    3. India would need a lobby as influential or better than the AIPAC to get the same "partial" source code access that Israel got. Getting full access is out of question.

    4. You must be writing under influence, to claim that India would not be a Super Power unless it agrees to annual inspection from the USG (I mean, owning critical American tech with their silly monitoring protocols).

    5. You might try to downplay the controversy surrounding "Kill Switches" on American jets, but history says otherwise (Pak's F-16 incident).

    6. How is the F-35 useful, with hardly 600 miles combat radius, just 2 BVR missile payload, under 1 tonne of PGM payload, rubbish A2A performance?

    7. Most of all, it is not even a true 5th Gen jet in America's own definition of 5th Gen!!! It can't supercruise, it can't super-maneuvre, and it can't retain stealth with any reasonable payloads (due to external mounting).

    8. If super-network-centric-sensor-fusion is the only plus in the JSF, then it is clearly not worth the $135 Million price tag (I am sure it will hit $200 Million by 2018).
    The JSF program is in deep trouble and you want IAF to get itself entangled in that mess while other partner nations are trying to distance themselves from it?

  109. To Anonymous 6 November 2011 20:57. :
    Instead questioning Shukla ji's about his intentions it is time to rethink your strategy of war.... to go to a battle with WWII tank and then get killed in the name of bravery is not I would call as being wise. Please stay away from this forum.

  110. oh yeah f 35 by 2015?? which planet and year are u living in? here's an update for u even the U.S. wont get it before 2016-2018. Go and ask ur lockheed sources again or simply try google leading american papers or otherwise just use wiki

  111. @Anonymous @7 November 2011 13:30...
    Let... The Cononel... decide... this space... is his blogspot... not yours...

  112. A befitting rebuttal by Mihir Shah & Aditya Mandrekar :

    The recent statement by a United States Department of Defence official, that the US would be willing to discuss a possible sale of the F-35 Lightning II to India, or even consider bringing India into the ambitious programme as a partner, has generated a lot of attention in
    the Indian media. While this is not the first time the F-35 has been offered to India, the timing of this fresh pitch is interesting. Coming six months after the two American contenders vying for the lucrative Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) contract -- the F-16 and F/A-18 -- failed to make the Indian Air Force (IAF) shortlist, and just days before the bids by EADS Cassidian and Dassault were opened, many perceive this as an attempt by the US and Lockheed-Martin to work themselves back into the equation. Sections of the Indian news media – both print and electronic – have called for the F-35's consideration in the MMRCA tender itself (and some have called for an outright purchase) resulting in a new round of teeth-gnashing over a topic that has stretched over a decade. All things considered, here's why we don't think the F-35 for India is a very good idea.

    To be clear, there is no doubt that the F-35 will meet accuracy and modernity standards required from any new-generation military equipment. But does it provide true bang-for-buck that the Indian Air Force needs? The way we see it, not really.

    The Lightning II can barely be called a “medium weight” aircraft – the only aircraft heavier than it in the MMRCA competition was the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Now couple this with the fact that its payload just about matches that of the Tejas, and you start to wonder whether it's such a good fit for the IAF. Next, even if it is advertised as a “multirole” aircraft, its capability on the aerial warfare front is still seriously suspect. At present the best it can do is carry four air-to-air missiles internally, less than half the capability of either the Typhoon or Rafale. It cannot operate without air cover as it does not possess a swing-role capability. Also, its stealth is not all-aspect like the F-22’s, and so it cannot be relied upon to make its way in and out of enemy territory unassisted.

    Additionally, the F-35 features a significantly smaller combat radius than either MMRCA finalist when on internal fuel and weapons (which also means a smaller payload due to restrictions on space available). There is no official mention yet about external fuel tanks on the F-35, and the moment you hang weapons on external pylons, you can kiss both range and stealth goodbye. There are doubts, too, about its aerodynamic capabilities. The aircraft features thrust-to-weight ratio and wing loading figures poorer than those of any contemporary fighter. One wonders how well it would perform in the key strike role in the thin air over the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau – the likely setting of any future India-China conflict.

    There is also an issue that seems minor at first sight, but could throw a spanner in procurement. The IAF has, over the last two decades, gravitated towards two-man crews for any aircraft that will be involved in strike roles beyond close air support. This was highlighted in the Kargil War when IAF Mirages had to perform precision bombing tasks at high altitude while avoiding air defences, staying within the border and keeping an eye on possible interception. It is the reason why a third of the MMRCA batch is touted to comprise tandem-seaters just as all the new Jaguars have been. The lack of a two-seat F-35 means that not only will the IAF not get what it wants for deep penetration strike roles, but it means that any pilot training will have to be done on expensive simulators only.

    Read the whole post at :

  113. How can you say F-35 will be superior than J20? Specs of J20 is yet to be revealed. If FGFA is worse tha J20, F-35 is likely to be worse off. Bill Sweetman and Carlo Kopp both thinks Pakfa is better than F35.

  114. F35 will not be available to India before 2018. So it is not an option if we want fighters now.

    F35 vs J20 is as unknown as Pakfa vs J20.

  115. Ajay, How much did you get paid for this post ? :)

  116. Senapati Shukla, General Carlisle says usaf will only get F-35s in 2018


  117. I m anot sure who at LM Ajai's purported sources are who qouted him the $ 65 M fly away cost and yes I do understand what that means so don't try to lecture me about not being initiated in the fine art of military hardware pricing !

    More credible numbers available in the public domain are as below :

    Unit cost for various variants of the F-35 (projected to go up )

    [1]F-35A: US$122 million (flyaway cost, 2011)
    [2]F-35B: US$150M (avg. cost, 2011)
    [3]F-35C: US$139.5M (avg. cost, 2011)

    Note: Average costs excludes development cost or weapon systems cost. For example F-35A along with weapons system unit cost is US$183.5M (FY 2011).

  118. http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/11/fighters-fly-for-50-years/?utm_source=co2hog

    Now confirmed by USAF: JSF has been further pushed back to 2018.

    " The single-engine stealth fighter, built by Lockheed Martin, has been beset by parts failures, design changes and a 64-percent increase in overall cost since development began in 2001. While testing has gone better lately, the nearly $400-billion program still needs to complete thousands more test flights before the first batch of regular pilots can even begin training."

    End this F35 Hara-kiri....

  119. @ Subho, et al

    You guys actually, unblushingly, quote various blogs, especially Danger Room, as an authority for the cost of the F-35... that's not logically or intellectually sustainable.

    Since you seem to be relying heavily on the insinuation that I'm making up or fabricating the US $65 million price, here is Lockheed Martin's Dave Scott, Director International Development for the F-35 project, saying the same thing:

    Unlike you guys who start with the answer, and then cherry-pick your figures and arguments to suit that... I go about it the right way round. I listen only to authoritative and official accounts. You need to be careful about what are authoritative accounts. For example, US Senators, are not authoritative figures, they are guys with constituency and party interests to protect.

    Nor are blogs like Danger Room. So choose your cherries, my friends!

  120. >> For example, US Senators, are not authoritative figures, they are guys with constituency and party interests to protect.

    And Lockheed is a "authoritative figure" because, obviously, they don't have to sell fighters no matter what.

    Wired, on the other hand, quotes a GAO report which was obviously made by a Senator who has been bought and paid for by "party interests" and "the consituency".

    I must learn to argue like that :)

  121. Shukla ji,

    The same Dave Scott was also the Director of the F-22 IBD. He kept insisting the plane cost only $120 Million a pop and a breeze to maintain, until the Government Accountability Office conceded that USAF paid $335 Million per plane (fly-away cost).

    Dave Scott has every reason to lie about the plane's price, just as much as any senator or Government agency. He desperately needs to open up more markets to his product, or risk losing his job if the program goes south (given the $600 Billion defense budget cut coming up in 2012).

  122. Col Shukla:

    The article you site does not say how much LM will ask India to pay for the the F35. It just states LM estimate of how much money it costs to make the cheapest version of the F35 (CTOL) from raw material in 2010 dollars. If you want to give us an "authorative" quote lets see Mr Scott going on record and publishing an estimate of how much the LM and the US government will charge India for the aircraft (including spares and support for 2 years, technical manuals, offsets, transfer of technology, setting up a manufacturing line in India, and training of personnel etc), similar to the quotes provided for the MMRCA.

  123. Sir, I fully agree with your views. It's is time to look beyond age-old paradoxes and concerns.

  124. Thanks Ajai for the link.

    But check this link

    "A congressional aide was was withering in reaction to the news of the new cost figures: "$6,566.0 million for 28 production jets...$234.5M each... That's a long way from the unit recurring flyaway cost established in 2002 by the JROC," the aide wrote. "

    This article is dated July 19, 2011

    This article is different from the link you provided which is only based on a interview with a marketing guy, a simple bait and switch tactic. They may claim what they want, but they currently charge $234.5M each!!

  125. to Ajai Shukla?

    few simple questions;

    Which aircraft will be operational faster ? PAKFA or J20 (2 protoypes T50, and 2 TD's Berkut and Mig1.44 from RAC )

    What is payload of F35, comaperd to rafale or EFT?

    Whys has the writer intentionally avoided the fact, that f35 will be complemented by USAF by f16's f18sh, f15, f22, A10's.

    Can F35 ever be an air superiority dog fighter?

    Why is the writer highly vocal in support for f35 but not PAKFA,, AMCA, or LCA MK2 for that matter?

  126. Dear sir ,
    Some assumptions in your idea

    J20>>PAKFA (2020) what makes you say that? please explain

    at the current production rate what makes you think f35 will start delivery in 2015 before finishing orders for all other partners?

    If f35 boasts better stealth, why is it second in line to f22 Raptor.

    F22/ f35 are of the same legacy of the f15/16 fighters.. f15 was tighly kept under us control whereas f16 was freely sold to everyone... we bought su30mki from russi which caould compete with f15's not just f16's.. hope you get the drift on PAKFA

  127. A equally detailed argument against the JSF in Asian Age.


  128. Ajayji

    How much money did you receive from Lockheed

  129. Journalist for sale.Ready to write any rubbish the owner ask for. :-)

  130. Ajai ji

    For your references:

    1) http://livefist.blogspot.com/2011/11/column-f-35-should-india-really-ride.html.


  131. Dear Mr Shukla,

    You did not mention many things regarding J 20,

    1) J 20 looks like a heavy aircraft. (around 20 MT category) Now probably they are going to use copy of AL 31. Now with 2 X 74.5 KN. (16,700 lbf) military thrust ,(we can not use after-burner in case of stealth aircraft) what is the speed that will be achieved. It will be definitely be a subsonic aircraft.

    2) What is the Radar J 230 is going to use? It will be definitely a AESA. From which country they are importing it? Because so far China can not produce an AESA.

    3) How much stealth is actually Stealth ? How Nighthawk was downed by technologically much inferior Yugoslavian army by only SA 3.

    4) It seems China will not use J 20 as a fighter role. (Looking at her size) Probably they will use it for nuclear counter attack roles.

    5) Any way, when you are so sure, that we are doing a Hara-Kiri then please compare apple with an apple. And try to give all details.
    Warmest regards.
    Ps. DasGupta.

  132. Modernization of AF is an ongoing process. The Chinese haven't stopped producing J10/11 etc just because they are developing J20.
    Can we put all our eggs in the 5th gen basket and then wait indefinitely if those projects don't materialize in time? aka LCA saga.

  133. Col Shukla, I do agree with your base logic of waiting for a 5th generation aircraft instead of buying a 4+ generation aircraft.
    There are however caveats.
    Stealth is an incredibly hard problem to solve. Whether its the Chinese , Russians or Americans, doing the solving, it does not get any easier.
    There are compromises involved, some of which reduce the aerodynamic performance, others that reduce payload that the aircraft can carry.
    as an institution , the IAF, would have to evaluate how such technology would fit in with its needs. I imagine, its current requirements , do not take these into account. When the J-20 becomes a reality, what would help would be to find ways to be able to detect the aircraft, not necessarily have stealth aircraft of our own.
    The Eurofighter and the Rafaele by all accounts are very expensive, and I am surprised the IAF , thought they would be able to afford 150 or so of these. Personally I think the souped up F-16 was what we could have used. It comes at a price tag of $30-$45million. And the reasons I heard to not do that were "But Pakistan has the same jet". So what? Do we not use AK-47's since Pakistan uses them?
    IAF in all its wisdom allowed twin engined jets to compete with single engined ones. There was no way that these would carry competitive price tags.

  134. This discussion has obviously gone on too long. The MoD and IAF have certainly taken a long time to finalise the MMRCA choice and the Eurofighter Typhoon is not a 5th Gen fighter but we know very little about the J-20 to reverse the decision on the MMRCA with all the attendant problems including legal and contractual delays. I am not for a moment against the F-35 only because it is made in the US but believe me the F-35 is facing some serious problems which will eventually get sorted out but that will take time. The IAF could well have opted for more Su-30s and waited for the FGFA or F-35 but its rapidly dwindling fighter assets and our experience of maintenance problems with the Russian fleets do not leave us the luxury of a further delay.
    A shooting match might not be imminent but not having enough punch to react/respond to adventurism might increase the chances of a conflict. Finally, you may like to avoid excitable rhetoric as it does not help the debate. best wishes, I continue to admire your industry,dilligence, determination and fearless defence of your views.


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