Posts Tagged ‘Saab Gripen IN’

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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