Indian MMRCA deal seems to be going to the US

I posted a few days ago about the joint RAF / IAF  exercises and its connection to the Indian need to acquire some 126 combat aircraft.

The $10.4 billion project to acquire 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force is in the final stages of the selection process. Apart from the Eurofighter, the other five contenders in the hotly-contested race for the lucrative MMRCA project are the F/A-18 `Super Hornet’ and F-16 `Falcon’ (both US), Gripen (Swedish), Rafale (French) and MiG-35 (Russian).


F/A-18E/F Super Hornet  (Neg#: Super Hornet )

F/A-18E/F Super Hornet: Boeing


While all the technical evaluations will no doubt be done by air-force  and MoD personnel, ultimately this is a political decision and the geo-political need to balance the growing Chinese might and to keep Pakistan in check will be paramount. The clear favourites in this game will be the US or the Russian aircraft. Domestically for the US government, an Indian order for either of the American fighters would be worth 27,000 jobs in the US. The commercial delegation accompanying Obama will be looking for a number of orders for nuclear power plant equipment to be finalised.


F-16 Figfhting Falcon: Lockheed-Martin



  • the timing of President Obama’s visit to India next month,
  • the visit of President Medvedev in December,
  • the political lobbying strength of the US,
  • the current concern in India about Chinese games in Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh,
  • the technical rather than political lobbying of Europe for the Eurofighter,
  • the absence of any political advantage with the Swedish Gripen,
  • the international weakness of Sarkozy in being able to support the French Rafale

the choice, I think comes down to Boeing’s F/A Super Hornet or Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Falcon. The strength of the MIG-35 lies in its continuity with the MIG’s that the IAF already has and the familiarity of HAL in Bangalore with the MIG. But, I think the US will be seen as much more politically useful in the balance-of-power game and India would not like that the Russian aircraft enjoy a monopoly position. Europe will be fobbed off with the British Hawk trainers.

But the play between the US and Russia is complex:

In return for Washington removing strategic hurdles (withdrawing entities like the Defence Research and Development Organisation from the US Entities List; easing the curbs on US high-tech exports to India), India could open up some of its lucrative markets to American companies.

The big-ticket transactions are the ones involving the defence market. India is expected to sign a deal with Boeing to buy 10 C-17 transport aircraft for about $3.5 billion during the Obama visit.

The Americans are hoping that the Indian government will also opt for what The Financial Times described as the world’s biggest military hardware deal and buy 100 multi-combat aircraft worth $11.8 billion from US defence manufacturers.

Agreement on the latter aircraft will be more complicated since India is also negotiating with the Russians to jointly build a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft, which is expected to be the finest of its kind when operational. The Russians will also sell 150 Sukhoi-30 MKI fighters, the best of its kind, to the Indian Air Force.

India expects to conclude the agreement for the FGFA with the Russians when President Dmitri Medvedev visits New Delhi in December, a visit which will probably match the Obama excursion in its strategic significance, if not in its symbolism.

But Obama cannot return from India “empty-handed” and my “guess” would be that the Boeing F-18 Super Hornet will be the winner but that the “price” will include some other advanced US equipment as well. And perhaps the Russians will  supply some 200 Sukhoi-30 MKI but maybe not the MIG 35.

But none of  of these is as advanced as the F-22A Raptor from Lockheed-Martin. But that is not on the table – yet.


File:Two F-22A Raptor in column flight.jpg

Two F-22A Raptor in column flight: Lockheed Martin


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One Response to “Indian MMRCA deal seems to be going to the US”

  1. Eurofighter Typhoon leads after technical evaluation but still not the favourite for Indian M-MRCA contract « The k2p blog Says:

    […] the Eurofighter Typhoon came out best in the technical and flight evaluation just completed for the Indian M-MRCA contract for 126 fighters worth about 11 billion $. However the Telegraph’s conclusion that The European-made Typhoon fighter is winning the […]

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