Posts Tagged ‘Indian MRCA competition’

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

December 28, 2011

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”.


Indian MMRCA contract: Financial bids from Eurofighter and Rafale due on 4th November

October 31, 2011

The protracted process for the $10 billion (which will become $15 billion) contract for the supply of 126 fighter aircraft (MMRCA – Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) to the Indian Air Force is coming into its final lap. Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault’s Rafale made the short list and have been asked to submit their “best and final offers”. The financial bids will be opened on November 4th. The contract is expected to contain an option for an additional 63 aircraft.

MSN India reports:

With the decision of the defence ministry to open the financial bids early next month of the two finalists in the IAF?s medium multi role combat aircraft (MMRCA) tender, IAF can now hope to acquire the first lot of 18 aircraft by end-2014 or mid-2015, depending on when the contract is signed.

The ministry completed the formalities last week and sent letters Monday to representatives of Eurofighter and Rafale for opening the bids on the afternoon of Friday, November 4. The representatives would authenticate the tender packets as their own and as submitted by them earlier, in the presence of senior ministry officials, and then they would be opened by one of the designated officers. …

Although the ministry’s initial assessment was that the deal could be worth around $10 billion, the Rafale and Eurofighter should cost somewhere around $15 billion. … it was only in 2007 that a Request for Proposals (RFP), or tender, was issued to these two European companies as well as US Lockheed Martin for the F-16 Super Viper and Boeing for F/A-18 Super Hornet, Swedish Saab for the Gripen and Russia’s Rosoboronexport for Mig 29M2, later designated Mig 35.

Eurofighter Typhoon for Indian contract? image:

The bids are valid till the end of December so the final contract could be awarded by then. But this  is India and  Dassault for Rafale and the Cassidian European consortium  for the Eurofighter could always be asked to extend the validity or to renew their bids.

But it does seem that the long tendering and contracting process which began in 2007 is finally coming to an end.

My guess is that the Eurofighter Typhoon will be chosen.

Indian MMRCA decision in two weeks – Eurofighter Typhoon still leads

February 13, 2011

A decision on the winner of the $10 billion Indian MMRCA deal for 126 fighters could be announced in two weeks and the contract signed by September. But in the normal way of these things I expect that a number of the losing contractors will object to whoever is chosen and some of the objections may well be in Court. There is no large Government contract placed in India without allegations of biased and “fixed” evaluations by the losers. But eventually the number of decisions overturned by such objections is very few. Whoever is called for negotiations when the winner is announced is 95% certain of being awarded the contract.

Eurofighter take-off: image

The word on the street is that the 4-nation European consortium’s Eurofighter Typhoon still leads after the commercial and strategic evaluation having already won the technical evaluation . But all the offset proposals put forward by the contractors may not have been fully evaluated yet. It would seem that technical considerations for one ( Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN Super Viper) and strategic considerations for the other ( Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet) may disallow the choice of the US fighters. The Saab JAS 39 Gripen is probably running second.

But there may yet be a surprise.

Business Standard reports:

Electrifying aerospace vendors at Aero India 2011 in Bangalore, Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshall PV Naik, announced today that New Delhi would decide within two weeks about which medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) it would buy, and actually sign the US $10 billion contract by September.

A panoramic view of Aero India 2011: image Broadsword (

“The CNC (Cost Negotiation Committee) is likely to start in a week or two. Taking that as the datum and giving [the CNC] another 6-8 months, the contract is likely to be signed in September”, declared Naik.
The CNC is a group of officials that negotiates, between the Ministry of Defence and the winning vendor, a final price for the sale.
Naik’s boss, defence minister AK Antony, had stated at Aero India 2011 yesterday that the globally-watched contract would be finalised by the end of the next financial year 2011-2012, i.e. by March 2012. By setting the deadline six months earlier, Naik appears to have put the MoD under pressure.
Asked for a clarification by Business Standard, Naik’s officiating deputy, Air Marshall RK Sharma, confirmed his chief’s announcement. Sharma clarified that the winning vendor would be issued an invitation within two weeks to appear for cost negotiations, while the CNC would actually meet within two months. An invitation to a vendor to appear in a CNC is tantamount to announcing the winner of a contract.
“The DAC (the MoD’s apex Defence Acquisition Council) will formalise the winner soon; we will then invite that company for negotiations”, said Sharma.
Six fighters are competing for the IAF contract: Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet; Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN Super Viper; the MiG Corporation’s MiG-35; Saab’s Gripen NG; Dassault’s Rafale; and a four-nation European consortium’s Eurofighter. Executives from these companies say they are baffled by Naik’s announcement. Asked in late-2010 to rework their offset bids, and with no date yet given for resubmission, the MoD does not have a key element needed to decide a winner.
“Is the MoD going to decide the contract winner without examining the offset bids?” asks a bemused executive, from one of the competing aircraft manufacturers.

The air chief also voiced his apprehension that the contract could be delayed by “dissatisfied vendors (who) put a spoke in the wheel”, using allegations of wrongdoing to trigger long-running probes by investigation agencies.
Yesterday, a defensive Antony had announced that political considerations would play no role in deciding the winner. That seemed to suggest that the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), which will be required to approval the contract after the CNC negotiates a final price, would merely rubber-stamp the IAF/MoD decision.
Other than the impending contract for 126 medium fighters to boost the IAF’s dwindling numbers, the IAF chief also announced the impending conclusion, “within this financial year”, of the contract to upgrade the air force’s 20-year-old fleet of 52 Mirage-2000 medium fighters. This upgrade, which has been the subject of bitter negotiations between the IAF and French contractor, Thales, will give the Mirage-2000 another 20 years of service life by fitting on a new radar and a modern cockpit with state-of-the-art avionics and electronic warfare equipment.
While Thales had initially demanded US $52 million per aircraft, the deal has been concluded, say IAF sources to Business Standard, at US 39 million per aircraft.

No surprise: “Secret” technical evaluation in Indian MMRCA deal found on the street

January 4, 2011

The Times of India reports on the bizarre story of a confidential file found on the street:

Even as the race for the “mother of all defence deals” enters the last lap, two IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officers of the defence ministry are now under the scanner for the mysterious way in which a “secret” file connected to the $10.4 billion project to acquire 126 new fighters went missing and was then found by a roadside.

There is an intense battle currently in progress to win the $10 billion deal for 126 combat aircraft (MMRCA – medium multi-role combat aircraft) where the final decision is expected to be taken by March. As I have posted earlier, the technical and flight evaluations on the 6 contenders were conducted by the Indian Air Force and their highly confidential and secret report was submitted to the Ministry of Defence  by early November 2010. Many rumours circulated at the time and the word on the street was that the Eurofighter Typhoon had won the technical evaluation. However this evaluation is merely one (but important) stage in the decision making process. The strategic and financial evaluations are under way and political lobbying is building up.  Some of this lobbying is at the highest levels of government and no doubt the recent visits to India by Obama and Medvedev and Sarkozy were utilised fully.

For all the contenders the technical evaluation is what determines what is left to be done to win the contract. The details in the technical evaluation report are most important for a contender to know how to compensate for any perceived failings. I am quite sure that every contender has managed by now to obtain a copy of the technical evaluation report. (To obtain copies of confidential reports from Indian bureaucrats is not in the realm of the impossible. In my experience obtaining reports and confidential documents from clerks in government service is much more effective than any Freedom of Information application and are not subject to any redactions.) I am equally sure that all the six aircraft manufacturers would have by now developed their sales strategies and lobbying plans based on the their weaknesses as recorded in the report. But what may have been missed by some is that unofficial dissemination of the “confidential” report is an expected event. It may even have been a deliberate leakage of the report as part of the Government of India’s buying strategy.

The six are:

  1. Dassault, Rafale, France
  2. Eurofighter, Typhoon, UK, Italy, Germany and Spain
  3. Lockheed Martin, F-16IN Super Viper, US
  4. Boeing, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, US
  5. Saab, JAS 39 Gripen, Sweden
  6. Mikoyan, MiG-35, Russia

Even though there are only 6 contenders, the number of lobbyists, sub-contractors and foreign embassy officials involved would have led to at least 100 copies of the report having been “sold” by various bureaucrats with access to the file. So I do not find it very surprising that one of the many “unsold” copies was abandoned somewhere. The value of such reports goes down sharply with time. It must have been at its most expensive immediately after it was submitted to government and before the many visits by various heads of state to Delhi. Again from my past experience of such things I would expect that the report probably had an initial “price” of around Rs 10 lakhs (about $20,000) but now some 2 months later, can probably be purchased for less than 1 lakh ($2,000).

Nobody is probably very bothered by this episode since the leakage of the report to the contenders is part of the game and already taken into consideration by the Government. In fact leakage of “perceived weaknesses” to a supplier is one of the best buying strategies to extract improvements in the supplier’s offer. The most senior bureaucrats in the Ministry of Defence are probably congratulating themselves for having managed to disseminate so many copies of the report before this particular slip-up.

But for now all the right noises will be made for public consumption. As the ToI reports:

Ordering an inquiry into the episode, defence minister A K Antony on Monday said he was “very clear that every officer has to be very careful at every stage” while dealing with the huge MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project. “We have viewed the incident seriously…the inquiry is in progress,” he said. It was last week that the “secret” file, which was earlier submitted to the MoD by IAF, went missing and was then found later in the day near Khelgaon Marg in South Delhi.

MoD was tight-lipped about the incident but sources said the file was apparently lost by the bureaucrats, one an additional secretary-rank officer and the other a director, while being taken to the Bharat Electronics Limited guest-house on Khelgaon Marg. The file was found by a security guard who then got in touch with the authorities concerned.

Eurofighter Typhoon leads after technical evaluation but still not the favourite for Indian M-MRCA contract

November 7, 2010

The Telegraph today carries the story that 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 fight for the $11.5bn (£7.1bn) contract to supply 126 fighters to the Indian Air Force in a deal worth $5 billion and 2,000 new jobs to Britain.

is a little premature.

In a recent interview Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Naik Chief of Air Staff said

The IAF has completed the Field Evaluation Trials on all six M-MRCA aircraft and has submitted its Staff  Evaluation Report to MoD for further processing.The likely time frame for completion of various activities before the contract is signed is about 6-8 months. So, we expect the contract to be signed by March 2011.

Now begin the strategic evaluations and these include a number of different levels of nested strategies. In addition to the IAF’s own views of what is required in its goals of becoming a Strategic rather than a Tactical Air Force and the mix of aircraft required for that, come the strategic requirements of the Armed Forces as a whole including the views of the Army and Navy not only for tactical support needs but also including the Navy’s carrier based fighter requirements. The Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Finance are obviously involved together with the Prime Ministers Office (PMO) in the highest level of strategic evaluation of the National Interests. The initial costs, life-cycle costs and operating costs are all separate parameters in the final evaluation. Then the impacts of future jobs, technology transfer, development of indigenous capabilities and National political aspirations come into play here.

The reason I believe that the Telegraph story is a little too optimistic about the EurofighterTyphoon’s chances is that the “Medium” representing the first “M” of M-MRCA (Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft) is a critical factor. In the “Heavy” class India has the Russian Su-30MKI, which is under series production at HAL in Nasik, India. The Heavy class will probably represent about 60% of India’s combat aircraft for some time to come. The need for a “Medium” fighter comes about because most of India’s MIG 21s are obsolete and “life-expired” and the IAF only has some 50 Mirage 2000s which are a decade old. The indigenous Light Combat Aircraft which was to have replaced the MIG 21s is a long way behind schedule and has not yet resolved all its technical issues. It is the need for around 15 -20% of the IAF’s combat aircraft being in the “Medium” class which generates the 126 fighters required in the current contract. The winner of this contract is likely to then sell another 80 -100 aircraft in a second phase.

The Eurofighter Typhoon and the French Rafale at around 24,000 kg maximum weight are close to the level that would be classed as “Heavy”. The aircraft coming closest to meeting the Indian definition of “Medium” are Lockheed Martin’s F-16 IN Super Viper and the Swedish Saab Gripen IN and they have both been configured specifically for the IAF.


JAS Gripen

JAS Gripen Image via Wikipedia


Political considerations cannot be ignored and this gives the F-16 an edge even though there can be a perception issue since the F-16 is the mainstay of the Pakistani Air Force and the IAF must be seen to be getting something superior to that supplied to the Pakistan Air Force. The Swedish fighter may actually be closest to Indian requirements but bears the political burden of the Bofors affaire and the perception issues in India that domestic Swedish politics may suddenly intrude into a long term supply arrangement which must last for some 30 years.

The Eurofighter cannot be dismissed but my top three at this stage would be:

  1. Lockheed Martin F-16 IN Super Viper
  2. Saab Gripen IN, and
  3. Eurofighter Typhoon.

But there are many angles to be looked at and there is a very long way to go before the contract is awarded in March 2011.

Joint RAF / IAF exercise Indra Dhanush 2010 enters final phase

October 31, 2010
Eurofighter Typhoon

Eurofighter Typhoon: Image via Wikipedia

The joint UK / India air exercise Indra Dhanush 2010 which began on October 18th at Kalaikunda Airbase in West Bengal’s West Midnapur District has entered its final phase and is due to end on November 3rd.  The RAF is participating with its Euro-fighters, VC-10 mid- air refuellers and E 3 D Sentry Airborne Early Warnings and Control Systems (AWACS) while the IAF is flying the SU 30s, Mirage 2000s, Mig-27s and their newly acquired AWACS.

So far some 120 flying missions have been flown. In the final phase a large number of aircraft in offensive and defensive roles are expected to be launched in ‘Waves’ in a limited airspace to test the skills of the fighter pilots, the AWACS and the ground controllers. High Value Air Asset (HVAA) protection missions which require a large number of aircraft are also to be carried out.

The exercise takes place with the backdrop of the 11 billion $ order for 126 MMRCA fighters that is to be placed soon by the Indian Air Force. The six competing fighters that the IAF has flight-tested over the last year include Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN Super Viper, Dassault’s Rafale, the Russian MiG-35, the Swedish Saab Gripen NG and the Eurofighter.

Indian MMRCA deal seems to be going to the US

October 17, 2010

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


Indra Dhanush 2010: Sukhoi vs Eurofighter and 10 B$ at stake

October 11, 2010


F3, Eurofighter, SU-30MKI


In 2006, and for the first time in over forty years the Royal Air Force and the Indian Air Force carried out exercises at bases in northern India, with Tornado F3s, E3-D AWACS and a VC10 making up the bulk of the RAF air presence. The bi-lateral Exercise INDRA DHANUSH (which means rainbow in Hindi), was held at IAF Gwalior and IAF Agra.The IAF platforms included the Sukhoi-30 MKIs, Mirage 2000, MiG-21 ‘Bison’ and MiG-27 aircraft.


Indra Dhanush 2007


Exercise Indra Danush moved to RAF Waddington in July 2007. On one side was Britain’s Eurofighter Typhoon, whose advanced aerodynamics and intuitive controls and avionics have led to it being rated as the second-best air superiority aircraft in the world. Its supporting cast included 1980s era Tornado F3 air defense variants, and upgraded GR9 Harriers from the Royal Navy. On the other side was India’s SU-30MKI, the most evolved variant of Sukhoi’s outstanding Flanker family, with aerodynamics that allow unique maneuvers, and full thrust vectoring besides.The Eurofighter is smaller, and is generally agreed to have more “shaping” than the SU-30 to reduce its radar profile (though neither aircraft is in the same class as the F-22A Raptor or even the less-stealthy F-35 Lightning II).


Now the Indian Air Force and the Royal Air Force “meetat Exercise Indra Dhanush 2010 from October 20th  at Kalaikunda, West Bengal. The exercise will be held in an AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) environment, with air defence being a major thrust area. Both the Indian and British forces are also expected to use their mid-air refuelling aircraft, like the IL-78 and VC-10 tankers, during the combat manoeuvres.

The exercise comes at a time when the $10.4 billion project to acquire 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) for the IAF 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).

A major Indo-UK defence deal has been the `Hawk’ AJT (advanced jet trainer) project. India is going in for another 57 Hawks as a “follow-on” order to the ongoing Rs 8,000 crore (about 1.75 B $) AJT project, finalised in March 2004 with BAE Systems, under which the IAF is already getting 66 Hawks.

The Royal Air force is going to field its Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft, AWACS (E-3D) and Air to Air refuellers (VC-10). The IAF will field SU-30 MKI, Mirage 2000’s, Mig 27’s and Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems(AWACS) Aircraft.

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