Indian MMRCA decision imminent as political support peaks for the Eurofighter Typhoon

The long running saga for the purchase of 126 combat aircraft for the Indian Air Force (worth in excess of 11 Billion $) is coming to a head between the 2 short listed – the Eurofighter Typhoon (UK, Germany, Italy and Spain) and the French Rafale. In April, Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN Super Viper, the MiG Corporation’s MiG-35 and Saab’s Gripen NG were eliminated after the technical evaluation leaving Dassault’s Rafale to compete with the Eurofighter built by a 4-country consortium. The winner is likely to sell a further 80 – 100 aircraft in a second phase. One requirement that the suppliers will be judged on is the extent to which technology transfer will take place and the extent to which Indian industry can become sub-suppliers. Rumours in the Defence Ministry are indicating a decision in the first half of January 2012.

The political support for the Eurofighter has reached its peak with a joint letter written by the leaders of the four supplier countries to the Indian Government welcoming India as a “fifth partner country”.

Whether they have got their timing right and have peaked at the right time remains to be seen. The French – especially with Sarkozy – are not shy of diplomatic and commercial “advocacy” when it is required. In any event the Eurofighter has probably gone further than the Rafale in meeting Indian aspirations for technology transfer.

Indian Express: In a joint “confidential” missive to the Prime Minister sent last week, British PM David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel — along with Italian and Spanish Prime Ministers — have said the EADS’ Eurofighter is an “excellent aircraft that stands on its own merit”. 

The joint letter has also welcomed India as the “fifth partner country” in jointly developing the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA), in the event of Eurofighter being chosen for the contract. The four PMs have also reaffirmed the “security of supply” in the case of Eurofighter Typhoon. 

This joint letter, sources said, is “unprecedented” since the four countries have lent strategic support to the commercial deal ahead of the final decision.

Over 700 Eurofighters have been ordered so far by 6 countries (Germany, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, Austria and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) and are in service in all of them.

The Rafale began as a 1985 French break-away from the multinational consortium that went on to create EADS’ Eurofighter. Around 200 Rafales are ordered or in service with the French military but it has not had a great deal of export success so far. It has lost export opportunities in Greece (against the Eurofighter and theF-16), in Morocco, in the Netherlands (where the F-35A and the JAS-39NG are short-listed), in Norway (against the F-35A), in Saudi Arabia (against the Eurofighter), in Singapore (against the F-15SG), in South Korea (against the F-15K), and in the UAE (against the F-16E/F).

Defence Industry Daily: As is so often true of French defense procurement policy, the choice came down to one of paying additional costs for full independence and exact needs, or losing key industrial capabilities by partnering or buying abroad. France has generally opted for expensive but independent defense choices, and the Rafale was no exception.

All things point towards the Eurofighter Typhoon, but this is India and anything can happen.

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4 Responses to “Indian MMRCA decision imminent as political support peaks for the Eurofighter Typhoon”

  1. The Cartoonist Says:

    [amended version of my previous post. Please delete older one]

    If the government of India stick to their word and to the laid down defence procurement procedure, then Rafale stands a much better chance than most commentators will concede.

    The choice now ought to be down to financial criteria, i.e. lowest total life cycle cost. This is the sum of development cost, flyaway price and operating cost. Rafale needs no additional development to meet MMRCA requirements, while Typhoon needs development and integration of AESA radar and of essentially all air-to-surface capabilities: the status of “fifth partner” offered essentially consists in asking India to foot the bill for those extra expenses, that Eurofighter nations have not agreed on and can’t afford in the current economic climate. Rafale’s flyaway price has been described as “marginally lower” after the bids were opened. Its maintenance is notoriously much leaner than that of the competition. Indeed, Eurofighter’s outrageous maintenance costs have made the headlines in Austria and Germany in the last few years, and have been pointed out by the british National Audit Organisation NAO early in 2011.

    Whether technical merit still bears weight is not so clear, as the shortlisting of the two finalists has been described as a pass/fail process, not to be revisited in the last phase of the selection procedure. If it does, though, Rafale should also benefit from the comparison, mainly thanks to the striking contrast between the two during the recent Libyan operation. The massive campaign of spin and hype surrounding Typhhon’s Libyan performance might have impressed a number of armchair analysts and unaware journalists, but the professionals from the Indian Air Force have certainly not been fooled. They have followed events closely and been administered detailed technical debriefs by both sides. While Rafale was performing every possible task in the fighter-attack-recce handbook (short of nuclear strike only :-)), Typhoon was essentially redundant, either flying pointless air superiority tasks (no air opposition worth mentioning) or flying alongside the venerable Tornado for the most basic close air support or air interdiction chores (dropping laser guided bombs) which the latter could have performed more efficiently and at lesser cost.

    • ktwop Says:

      I am not competent to judge between the aircraft but from what I do know about the procurement process the short-listing of these two would have summarised a net weighting of all previously evaluated parameters prior to the short listing. Thereafter it is only the still open parameters (essentially all connected with pricing or life cycle costing) which should come into play.
      I am not sure which one had the advantage at the time of the short listing, but it is not impossible for last-minute “political” lobbying to be converted – with credible justification – within the evaluation as a financial benefit.
      Whatever the bottom-up evaluation results are, ultimately it has to live in the space of the top-down political reality. The Indian Air Force will get the best result possible – rather than the best possible result – only when these two coincide. (I note that the best possible result is hardly ever achieved).

  2. Deal To Supply New 84 x F-15SA To Saudi Arabia Signed - PPRuNe Forums Says:

    […] Is this significant in that the Saudis are F-15 and Typhoon customers and appear to be buying more of the former and no more of the latter? Not necessarily. The Saudi's see keen to modify as many of the original order of Tranche 2 Typhoons as possible to Tranche 3 standard with GA capability to make them dual/swing-role. If there is a follow-on order I'd expect it to be for full Tranche 3 capability and with an AESA radar, which means any order might be several years away. It may be strongly influenced by whether the Typhoon wins the India MMRCA contract, where the decision is expected within the next 2 weeks. […]

  3. Eurofighter Typhoon - Page 56 Says:

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  4. Indian MMRCA: Dassault’s Rafale dumps its price to beat the Eurofighter « The k2p blog Says:

    […] the winner of the Indian MMRCA competition has been announced (or at least the L1 bidder) and it seems that the French dumped their prices for […]

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