Posts Tagged ‘JAS 39 Gripen’

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.

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.

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