In addition to Rafale, India could also buy light fighter to replace MiG-21: Parrikar - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 14 April 2015

In addition to Rafale, India could also buy light fighter to replace MiG-21: Parrikar

MoD says it could bring in company other than HAL to build fighter in India

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 14th Apr 15

With Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi facing tough questions over the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters, announced on Friday during his visit to Paris, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, appeared on Monday on the state-run broadcaster, Doordarshan, to explain this move.

Parrikar was unable to clarify how many Rafales would eventually be bought, or what price would be paid. Noting that there had only been an in-principle decision at the PM’s level, he said: “We have not detailed its price and terms and conditions yet… the (Indian and French) teams will now sit and work out details”, he said.

“It may be worked out that we will buy another 90 Rafales… The ‘Make in India’ part will be decided only after government-to-government talks”, said Parrikar.

Contradicting himself later, Parrikar said India could not afford 126 Rafales. “We must remember that Rafale is a top-end, multi-role fighter… but it is quite expensive. When you talk of 126 aircraft, it becomes a purchase of about Rs 90,000 crore”, he said.

This is the first time an official has revealed the amount Dassault had quoted for 126 Rafales. Media speculation had favoured a figure of $15-18 billion. Parrikar’s revelation of Rs 90,000 crore come to about $15 billion.

Parrikar made the far-reaching announcement that, in addition to the Rafale, India could buy a second foreign fighter, in the lightweight category, to replace several MiG-21 squadrons that will retire this decade.

“Rafale is not a replacement for MiG-21. LCA Tejas is a replacement for MiG-21. Or, if we build some other fighter under “Make in India”, that is also possible. If we build another single engine [fighter] in India, which is possible, that could be a replacement for the MiG-21”, said Parrikar.

Indian Air Force (IAF) planners do not favour buying two new types of fighters. Yet Parrikar has thrown up a tantalizing prospect for light fighter builders like Lockheed Martin, which had offered the F-16IN Super Viper to India; and Swedish company, Saab, which had offered the Gripen NG.

It has been widely speculated across the industry that Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group was interested in building the Rafale, supplanting Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). Parrikar has now stated that production in India would be open for companies other than HAL.

“Initially HAL would be preferred, but that need not [remain the case]. Since we’ve started a new file, we don’t need to stick with the RfP (Request for Proposals, or tender) conditions.”

On Monday, Parrikar had scrapped the 2007 RfP for 126 MMRCA, which had mandated that Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) would build 108 fighters in India.

Intriguingly, the defence minister blamed the competitive procurement model that had been followed in the MMRCA tender for its eventual collapse. Said Parrikar: “It is wrong to do an MMRCA type deal using an RfP model. You cannot compare different types of aircraft like the F/A-18, Eurofighter and Rafale. All three have different strengths and capabilities. All three are probably good enough planes… One of them was made L-1 (lowest bidder). The entire procedure was completed and then we find that the entire procedure will have to be repeated all over again. How do I answer air force?”

Parrikar also blamed the preceding United Progressive Alliance government for handling the MMRCA procurement poorly. In fact, it was the National Democratic Alliance government of the early 2000s that ordered competitive procurement.

More than once, Parrikar referred to the Rafale’s capability for delivering weapons on deep-lying strategic targets --- his reference to a “strategic purchase” apparently hinting at a nuclear delivery role.

“Rafale is a strategic purchase and should never have gone through an RfP. These important decisions need to be taken at government-to-government levels. Modiji took the decision; I back it up”, the defence minister said.

“The penetration capability of this aircraft (Rafale) is 1,000-1,100 kilometres. The other [IAF] aircraft penetration range is 300-450 kilometres. So we get double the penetration,” said Parrikar, again referring to deep strike capability.

In what would not be welcomed in the IAF, the defence minister stated he might compromise with the IAF’s sanctioned squadron strength, instead accepting a lower figure. “Forty-two squadrons is the strength approved. We should have at least 37-38 very active squadrons”, said Parrikar. 


  1. NSR says ---

    DM Parrikar may do another G2G deal with Sweden/SAAB for Gripen and may be technical collaboration for LCA/Tejas II to put some fire to the feet and tails of HAL/DRDO/ADA...

    India must first do a drastic reorganization of HAL by breaking it into self-standing units...military aviation, civil aviation, helicopters, missiles, engines, avionics, sub-assemblies, etc

    May be even privatize it to make them compete without the burden of bureaucracy...

    India must pick two other military aviation private companies to get involved into Rafale and Gripen fighters...

    India must make HAL to fast track Tejas I and II and keep pushing for AMCA...

    Some extra Super Sukhois/Mig-29Ks and mid-life upgrades older units with 4++ generation avionics will be welcome...

    These steps will bring the IAF Squadron levels very quickly to the desired level...

    Also, it will not involve much corruption in G2G deals...

  2. gripen... nxg...

  3. First deliveries of Gripen NG in 2019-2020

  4. Rafales are very expensive even G2G deal or FMS route doesnt really imply that IAF could afford 126 Rafales which would be as pricey as twice the no. of sukhois. LCA Mk2 is years away so would be the Sukhoi Pakfa. this is a very good idea besides su30s and LCas nearly 200 MMRCas are reqd. even if they go for 36+36 Rafales IAF may not accept more than 40 MK1s if Make in india has to fructify probably a aircraft like the Gripen NG is required to bridge the gap.

  5. Rafale is an almost bankrupt company but for this multi billion € order from us they are gonna go belly up in a year or two. Reliance / Tata / Mahindra with its deep pockets can do takeover (friendly / hostile whatever it takes) and setup an international supply chain to based out of France and india to supply both airforces, that's what you call an innovative idea. Whatever modi has done now is giving like giving a blank cheque to rafale to buy french made rafeale at their terms jeopardising the interests of IAF and domestic aviation industry. Ppl of india are not stupid to believe in the planted media reports that they came up with an idea to save indian tax payer money. The current deal is a betrayal of trust we had on Mr modi and his team.

  6. I am sure that Gripen brokers must be salivating at the prospect of building a light fighter for IAF.

  7. Sir,

    We are all concern of IAF. It is a good sign. But what about Army. Any news of these following procurement ?

    1) 155 MM 39 caliber light Howitzer.
    2) 155 mm 52 caliber towed Howitzer.

    Lately all the major procurement/commissioning are on either Naval or Air-force front. No news from Army.

  8. If India needs more light fighters, just mass produce the Tejas.

  9. @Anon 11.37

    If HAL should be privatized, who will hold the controlling stake? It's a capital and R&D intensive industry where gestation periods are often very high with low success rate. This, only a state owned enterprise can withstand. Besides this, none of the Indian Pvt companies have a scientific bent of mind, not even the tomtomed Tata or L&T let alone Reliance or Mahendra.
    Where the Pvt Cos can definitely help is in manufacturing sub components.

  10. The best option is HAL partnering with SAAB to design and manufacture Gripenised Tejas MKII.
    Till we get Tejas MKII, the order for Tejas MKI needs to be increased to more than 100. HAL needs to set up new manufacturing Tejas facilities to take care of increased sales order.
    HAL needs to pull itself by it's bootstraps as it's existence is threatened by a openly hostile govt in power. Modi govt in order to favor Pvt Cos (who have placed him in power) is doing everything to weaken DRDO and other state owned defense manufacturing enterprises.

  11. Mr. Parrikar's in an interview in HT today says that he may buy more Rafales, but he would also like to buy more 'LCA', or maybe a mix of both. According to him, this is to replace the huge fleet of MiGs and Jags on the verge of retirement.

    He also said that "LCA" is a very capable aircraft.

    I admire Mr. Parrikar in that his technical knowledge is much superior to his predecessor's (who was just a Union leader, and actually Red Flagged many critical indigenous projects).

    I think Mr. Parrikar must cap the order of Rafales at 36 and give more orders of Tejas Mk.1 and Mk.2. This is because Tejas Mk.1 itself can replace all the 200+ odd MiG-21s and MiG-27s in the IAF's fleet. The Tejas Mk.2, which is more powerful can be the MMRCA.

    Since his technical knowledge is good, he'd know that Tejas Mk.2 will have a more powerful engine, more range and payload. It'll have an AESA radar too. It'll be equivalent to F-16 C/D and the Gripen NG (which was fielded for the MMRCA competition).


    Let's abandon the PAK-FA. Let's build the AMCA.

  12. Hee Hee Hee...double the penetration...

  13. First government should decide what it wants. If Rafale is not the replacement for MIG 21 which he is telling now !!This is more of a strategic asset. Now NDA will float another tender or RFP for LCA single engine fighter? Tejas would also be scrapped.

  14. Jokes with the news cropping up of inducting another light fighter as an ideal mig replacement is just worrisome..if modi/parrikar can't push DRDO/ADA combine on fast tracking Tejas, we must just as well kiss the program goodbye..imagine the maintainence nightmares...
    The amount spent on maintainence well might fund 2 additional squadrons easily..

  15. IAF started off with the requirement of MRCA to replace Mig21 in 2001. Soon with the country riding the global economy bubble IAF grew greedy, money was no object and MRCA evolved into the monstrous MMRCA rfp in 2007. The global bubble burst in 2008 but we kept smarting until 2012 when the economic reality finally caught up with us. With GOI unable to afford the expensive Rafales, IAF has since been swearing that the LCA cannot replace MMRCA only to be reminded now by Mr Parrikar that MMRCA cannot replace the Mig21. That should have been the requirement from the very beginning.
    We have come full circle and wasted 15 years doing so.

  16. Hopefully Tejas will continue.It's surprising that suddenly Rafale is not replacement of Mig-21s.I, thought that was the whole point of this MMRCA;to get rid of Migs soon and in time the Mirage and Jaguars much much later on perhaps.

    1. LCA was always the replacement for MiGs, not Rafale which is needed to pound Chinese targets deep inside Tibet and PoK. M in MMRCA is `medium` and L in LCA is 'light'.

  17. When Mr.Parrikar says about single engine jet he is talking about Tejas not about Gripen or F-16.His technical ability,common sense,intellect level are far higher than Saint Antony who is treator to the nation.New Defence Minister understands this that by getting in a new jet is not viable & will only increase maintenance & other nuisance attached with it; he is simply refering to general question asked by a journalist in general way.Their is nothing in the air as some are trying to make of it as simple as that.

  18. Mr Parrikar can make another company out of LCA-Tejas department with private sector cooperation. He can break HAL into Hind Helicopters, Hind Engines Limited and HAL. He can do many things - bottom line is that it is Mr Parrikar's job to ensure that LCA Tejas gets into IAF service and becomes the main basis of light combat in IAF.

    If he derails the fighter program and again goes shopping for Gripen or F-16 or any other firaang fighter, I am pretty sure he will sued in Supreme Court. I, for one, am thinking of filing a PIL in Supreme Court against this crime towards national interest.

    Nations nurture their defence and aerospace industry. Americans pay heaps of dollars in research funds to sustain Boeing and Lockheed Martin. France and other European Countries give subsidies to Airbus to sustain. Brazil and China are building their Embraer and AVIC corporation through subsidies, state supports and major orders.

    In contrast, Mr Parrikar has grabbed his shopping bag and started roaming around global capitals buying fighters, while Indian indigenous industry is getting ruined. His claims of Make in India is biting dust now.

    Well, if he goes on imported route, he will be sued in Supreme Court, for sure.

  19. Its amazing how none of you commentators and the editor has shown any understanding about the french political scene in the context of this deal.

    None of you seem to factor that the conservative UMP (Sarkozy's party) has swept the departmental elections in France, Which is an indicator of events on the national level.

    A government capable of loosing elections cannot afford to hand out its jobs (rafale Manufacturing) to another country (HAL). Especially a non conservative party.

    Therefore, While a small consolation deal has been signed with India and India has alleviated its immediate requirement need of two squadrons.

    It will reengage Rafale and other players for a manufacturing plant in India. Perhaps when Sarkozy (a politician which has noticeable interest in India and Modi like party which believes in top down flow of income) When the rich get richer it will in turn trickle down.

    PM Modi too is off that approach hence the move to set up industry in India as the rich get richer the lowest class get hired and alleviated from poverty.

    Why are all of you so domestically obsessed in your thought processes.

    You are supposed to be a strategic lot. :)

    To all Pro HAL types -

    AMCA is 25 years away and will be ready to take over when rafale is at the position of Mirage in wear and tear. Please stop advocating it to be a Rafale or a FGFA replacement.

    Sukhoi - is a heavy class Air superiority fighter. Its is not a small aircraft , it has a huge radar cross section. When its in the sky it makes no attempt to hide itself and challeges other aircraft. To use it for stealthy deep penetration strikes is to use a samurai sword to cut vegetable in a kitchen. Ruining the sword and brutalizing the vegetables instead of cutting them.

  20. Klingon economist18 April 2015 at 09:28


    You want to tell us 100s of millions of Indians will be raised out of poverty with Indian tax money that current pro rich Govt in India will pay to foreign arms merchant via extremely corrupt family owned Indian Pvt Cos?? You're poverty alleviation economics sounds like that of the Klingons.
    Both our uber corrupt politicians, top brass, Pvt Cos and foreign arms merchants have one goal i.e. not allowing India to acquire capabilities to design and manufacture advanced weapons system. Doing so will be a financial disaster for all of them.
    This current BJP govt is doing everything in it's capacity to ruin indigenous state owned defense companies which after years of struggle are in a position to deliver only to see them fail due to nefarious designs by powers that be.

  21. Jean Luc Pickard, the AMCA is a DRDO product, not HAL's. We're advocating the private sector to partner with the DRDO to make the AMCA.

    This is no longer the 80's and 90's, when India was taking its baby steps with the Tejas. We didn't even have basic know-how then. On top of that, we were under a tech. denial regime, (which was exacerbated after Pokhran-II).

    Add to that, a very limited budget and an aloof Air Force, and you can see how far Tejas has come.

    These times are different. We have now developed a 4+ generation fighter. We now have experience in many new technologies (Tejas' composite percentage is amongst the highest in the world, and its one of the few quadruplex FBW jets around).**

    Also, the world is opening its doors to us. This is not to say that the tech. denial regime has ended, but the west is far more liberal than it was even 10 years back. Money is also not as big an issue now.

    We have a private sector that is raring to go and a pragmatic, knowledgeable Defence Minister.

    All these things can make the AMCA possible in a time frame, much shorter than the Tejas.

    Learning a motor-bike takes lesser time, than it took to first ride a bicycle.


    ** The Tejas' contributions to Indian aerospace cannot be described enough. Its seminal.

  22. Sir,
    what has happened to RAFALE is bygone now.
    what we must bother is not to have white elephants like the FGFA and MTA.
    The Russian equipment we all know the serviceability and NIL user satisfaction. what we need t do now is to build a pressure a group to stall any more Russian defence deals.

    There was a very thought provoking email written by one Indian gentleman in 2008-09, when the MMRCA deal was underway. Probably an IIT ian, an MBA working in USA. IF ANY BODY CAN PLEASE LOCATE HIM.
    He wrote at that time when the deal was assumed to be around 10 billion dollars, that the cost of SAB Company as per its listed price on the New York and other exchanges was around 3-4 billion dollars.
    With that kind of investment both partly by the Govt of India and a private player like the TATAS / AMBANIS / ADANIS we (INDIA) could become a majority stake holder in the company.
    The way TATAS could take over CORUS (STEEL) or JAGUAR (AUTOMOBILE), similar manner why not SAAB,
    While some conspiracy theorists would say, deliberately so that SWEEDEN would not allow that to happen. That is where diplomacy, conviction and power of money in the FLAT world lie.
    The deference companies around the world are struggling to survive for want of orders. India has been instrumental in helping them, case in point in the Russian industry which came back only because of the SU 30 MKI / MIG 21 & 29 upgrades and the GORSHKOV & MIG 29 K deals.
    Now we are paying trough our nose to maintain the struggling serviceability of the entire Russian fleets and at times costlier than any western equipment of same class and paying in PURE dollars.
    Like the GORSHKOV upfront the Russians would project their equipment to be cheap, but in the end we end up paying five times in terms of spare costs operating cost etc i.e. Life cycle cost that too for an equipment which is substandard.
    LIKE THE SPACE AND NUCLEAR PROGRAM, the aviation or MILITARY AC manufacturing needs to be put under the PMO. Accountability would increase, radical decisions like JV or part acquisitions with a foreign firm like SAAB etc would need to be taken. HEADS need to be rolled for non compliance and lethargy. Inclusion of private player with NIL or MINIMUM investment to start with, only when the JV or Acquisitions are being finalized then their money needs to flow in with equal GOVT stakes ensuring return of investment by the private player.
    Within three years there would be turnaround of unprecedented scale in this industry or so called self reliance.
    The other major decision which the govt needs to take is to cancel the FGFA and MTA deals with Russia.
    They are liars they have nothing to offer in FGFA. They do not have history of making any stealth like the Americans who took forty plus years with proof of AC like B-52, U-2, F-117 etc to finally come to the stage of F-22 or F-35.
    So what fifth gen they are claiming would only be a glorified SU-30, as it is they do not have any engine to match any where close to stealth. WE RATHER NOT SPEND 25 OR 10 OR 15 BILLION ON FGFA etc
    and utilize that money for the single seater with full technology including that of engine of a 4 or 4.5 gen class rather than trying to eat more than we can chew in terms of any FIFTH GEN??

  23. every body knows that. but while competig for MEDIUM MRCA, the gripen and F-16 also competed, it was luck that they got disqualified, otherwise same LIGHT ones would / could have been part of this MMRCA also.


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