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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

M-MRCA Competition: The Final Faceoff

The Indian Air Force (IAF) earlier this month completed Phase 6 of the eight-phase process of acquiring some 220 medium multi-role combat aircraft (M-MRCA) and related product/training hardware worth an estimated US$15 billion when it submitted its comprehensive technical evaluation report of the six M-MRCA contenders to India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD). All that is now left to be done is completion of the price evaluation report—inclusive of the direct/indirect industrial offsets offers proposed by the manufacturers of all six M-MRCA contenders—by a joint team comprising members from the IAF, the MoD and the Union Ministry of Finance, following which the Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCNS) and the Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) will make the formal selection of the winner by this September. While the initial contract will be for procuring 126 M-MRCAs, there will definitely be a follow-on contract inked by 2016 for procuring an additional 94 M-MRCAs. This would mean that all 220 M-MRCAs will be delivered between the 2013-2024 period, and would remain in service till 2050 at least.

Contrary to popular belief, the IAF’s technical evaluations committee (TEC) has not devised any kind of pecking order for the various M-MRCA contenders. Instead, based on the universal practice of impartially analysing the merits and demerits of each offer—characteristic of a competitive bidding process—the TEC has concluded that only two of the six contenders—Boeing Defense & Aerospace Group’s tandem-seat F/A-18IN Super Hornet and Dassault Aviation’s tandem-seat Rafale B—come closest to meeting or exceeding the IAF’s operational requirements. These are followed by single-engined F-16IN from Lockheed Martin, Eurofighter GmBH’s EF-2000, and the JAS-39 Gripen IN from Saab Aircraft BV. The MiG-35 from Russia’s United Aircraft Corp was never a serious contender as it exists only on paper till this day. So what were the parameters that have tilted the balance in favour of the F/A-18IN and Rafale? And what will be the parameters that will play the decisive roles in favour of the winning bid?

The answers to these questions lie in the the 211-page global Request for Proposal (RFP) for the procurement of an initial 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) was floated for the Indian Air Force (IAF) on August 28, 2007. A careful reading of the RFP’s introductory section itself reveals what exactly the IAF desires from an operational perspective. The key criteria listed in the section mandated that:
1) The M-MRCA on offer has to be a fully functional and mature system, with all its listed capabilities already in operational service and not requiring any further fine-tuning or R & D work.
2) The M-MRCA on offer has to deliver a payload capacity that is much greater than that of the envisaged Tejas Mk2 MRCA, but no more than what the Su-30MKI is already certified to carry.
3) The M-MRCA on offer has to come equipped with an infra-red search-and-track system optimised for air superiority operations, as well as a fully certified active phased-array multi-mode radar (AESA-MMR) capable of waging all-weather and network-centric knowledge-based air-to-air and air-to-surface warfare, and must come armed with standoff precision-guided munitions for both land-attack and maritime strike. But most importantly, the AESA-MMR must have a ground moving target indication-cum-tracking (GMTI/T) mode simultaneously interlaced with the airspace track-while-scan (TWS) mode. 
4) The M-MRCA on offer must have sufficient future growth capability to ensure that during its envisaged 40-year service life, it can be subjected to at least two major upgrade programmes aimed at enhancing the aircraft’s operational performance parameters.
5) For ensuring total operational sovereignty over the M-MRCA on offer, the aircraft must be accompanied by a through-life product support package that includes the establishment of all four levels of maintenance within India through the creation of a dedicated IAF base repair depot, plus through private sector/public sector product support joint ventures in which the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of foreign origin (for the airframe, avionics, instrumentation, engine and accessories) and its Indian counterpart will be the principal business stakeholders, this being in consonance with the MoD’s direct industrial offsets guidelines (amounting to 50% of the total contract value) that are laid down by the MoD’s Defence Procurement Policy.
6) The M-MRCA on offer must be accompanied by the availability and delivery of fully certified training aids that should include the following:
A) Full-flight (or full-motion) simulator (FFS), which recreates sounds, motion, visual scenes, instrument presentations and all other systems in order to create a realistic flight training environment. The pilot will be able to train for landing, takeoff, weapons delivery, night flight, formation flight and cockpit familiarisation in normal, adverse and emergency situations. The handling characteristics of the FFS represent actual aircraft characteristics based on available flight data and input from experienced pilots.
B) Flight training device (FTD), which can be used to off-load some of the training tasks from the FFS. The FTD is a fixed-base trainer that typically does not include a visual system, but uses the same flight management and control systems as a FFS, making it the ideal for instrument familiarisation and other standard flight operations.
C) Cockpit procedures trainer (CPT), which assists pilots in learning the layout of the cockpit, the location of switches, lights, circuit breakers, instruments, and other functions. The CPT increases efficiency in the FFS and the actual aircraft by having the aircrew already familiarised with their surroundings.
D) Part-task trainer (PTT), which is a training device that is designed to train a member of the aircrew or maintenance staff on a particular task associated with the aircraft. PTTs exist for a range of tasks including: avionics systems, systems familiarisation, weapons delivery, aerial refuelling, and a variety of complex tasks specific to a particular aircraft.
E) Integrated procedures trainer (IPT), which can be used for mission rehearsals or to teach and practice any in-flight or on-ground procedures in a crew cockpit environment. It is a high-fidelity, low-cost training solution based on the same software used on the FFS. The IPT uses touch-screen monitors to display the cockpit and captures pilot inputs. The pilots can thus maintain their qualification on certain tasks without having to fly the FFS or the real aircraft. In addition to procedures training, especially for cockpit emergencies, the addition of a visual and tactical environment can give pilots the ability to practice the mission before operational deployment using the mission rehearsal station. This unit can be set-up and dismantled in one or two hours and handled and transported easily without the use of special tools or equipment.
F) Computer-based training tools required for all four levels of maintenance. 
7) Lastly, the M-MRCA on offer has to be delivered—through both off-the-shelf purchases as well as through in-country licenced-assembly—at a rate of no less than 20 aircraft per annum so that the IAF’s objective of fielding 42 combat squadrons is realised by 2022.

From the above, some distinct inferences can be drawn. Firstly, the IAF’s mandatory ruling about a readily available M-MRCA equipped with a fully functional AESA-MMR at the time of contract award serves to indicate that only the F/A-18IN Super Hornet, F-16IN Super Viper and the Rafale B can be considered as serious contenders out of the original list of six. Secondly, although not stated in writing, the IAF’s recent articulation of envisaged ‘Super’ Su-30MKI mid-life upgrade programme and its insistence on acquiring an AESA-MMR-equipped, twin-engined tandem-seat Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) are all indicative of the IAF’s as-yet unstated preference for procuring tandem-seat, twin-engined, AESA-MMR-equipped M-MRCAs that will be notches above the envisaged single-engined/single-seat Tejas Mk2 MRCA  and will, at the same time, complement the awesome air dominance capabilities to be offered by the ‘Super’ Su-30MKI. Consequently, out goes the F-16IN Super Viper, leaving only the F/A-18IN Super Hornet and Rafale B in the fray. Which consequently brings us to the final faceoff and choosing the best option from both operational and military-industrial perspectives through  a higher decision-making process which--given the scale of the deal--would also build strategic partnerships of the kind that must remain valid till at least 2050, if not beyond that.

If we are to believe that history has a tendency of repeating itself, then the final results of the IAF’s on-going M-MRCA faceoff will most likely be a repeat of what happened in South Korea on April 19, 2002 (when Seoul selected Boeing’s F-15K over the Rafale) and in Singapore on September 6, 2005 (when the Rafale was rejected in favour of the F-15SG). But let us rewind a little and go back to the face-to-face showdown between the F/A-18IN Super Hornet and Rafale during the Aero India exhibition in Bengaluru last February. On the eve of the expo—on February 8—Boeing seemingly drove the final nail on the Rafale’s coffin by unveilling for the very first time its super-ace trump card—the ‘Super Hornet International Roadmap’ option for the IAF, which will be available from 2013. If the IAF were to exercise this option, then the F/A-18IN would come equipped with an enclosed weapons pod that is intended to significantly lower the aircraft’s radar cross section, a large (11-inch by 19-inch) one-piece, touch-screen panoramic active-matrix liquid-crystal display, or PAMLCD (to improve the fused presentation of the integrated sensor suite), twin conformal fuel tanks straddling the upper fuselage to confer an additional 10% range (by carrying an additional 3,000lb of fuel), a greater payload capacity (over the existing 17,750lb or 8,050kg of weapons in 11 stations) that will overshoot the Rafale’s existing capacity of 9,500kg or 21,000lb spread over 14 stations), an internal nose-mounted IRST sensor, a spherical missile and laser warning system that will be housed above and below the aircraft, and an enhanced performance engine (EPE) version of the existing 98kN-thrust F414-GE-400 turbofan that would provide a 20% increase in thrust. Boeing has even gone to the extent of pledging that the ‘Super Hornet International Roadmap’ variant will be superseded in 2024 by a sixth-generation variant, tentatively known as the next-generation air dominance (NGAD) fighter.

The Rafale’s latest tranche 4 variant, on the other hand (as we now know from the data released by Dassault and the French Armee de l’Air in connection with the on-going M-MRCA competitions in Brazil and the United Arab Emirates), suffers from certain fundamental shortcomings when compared with the ‘Super Hornet International Roadmap’ variant. For instance, the THALES-built Radar à Balayage Electronique-2 (RBE-2) AESA-MMR—having an antenna array equipped with 1,001 transmit/receive modules, having a detection range of 180km, and performing TWS of up to 40 airborne targets—does not, as yet, have a ground moving target indication-cum-tracking (GMTI/T) mode simultaneously interlaced with the airspace TWS mode. In addition, its synthetic aperture radar mapping mode is still under development. Also, the growth variant of Snecma Moteurs’ M88 turbofan—the M88-3—which will be rated at 90kN (20,000lb) with afterburner (a 20% increase over the original M88-2) and a higher time-between-overhauls (from the present 800 hours)—is unlikely to be available in the near future. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that Dassault Aviation will be able to ramp up its production capacity from the present-day 1.7 aircraft per month to more than 20 without a significant hike in production costs (only 294 Rafales have been ordered to date). Consequently, the per-unit cost for an exportable tranche 4 Rafale (minus its weapons package, flying training tools and product-support equipment) will exceed the present-day figure of €54 million (US$78 million) by as much as 50%. Against this, the ‘Super Hornet International Roadmap’ variant of the F/A-18IN is estimated to cost about $60 million or even less, since the Super Hornet’s production line in St Louis, Missouri, has been steadily churning out some 30 units per annum (to meet the total production order for 515 F/A-18E/Fs and 114 EA-18Gs for the US Navy, plus 24 F/A-18Fs for the Royal Australian Air Force). The only silver lining in the Rafale’s favour is the availability of two 1,150 litre detachable conformal fuel tanks (CFT), which can be mounted on the upper surface of wing/fuselage blend, causing less drag than traditional underwing fuel tanks, and freeing underwing stations for carrying armaments. CFTs bring the Rafale’s maximal external fuel load to 10,800 litres.

In the final analysis, therefore, it should not come as a surprise if the MoD declares Boeing’s F/A-18IN Super Hornet bid as the preferred choice on both technical and cost grounds. If this were to happen, then all that is left for Dassault Aviation to do (as it once did on September 6, 2005) is identify and disclose the two main reasons for the MoD’s decision: the weakness of the US dollar, which it should describe as a definite handicap for the economic competitiveness of the French offer, and the negotiating influence of “America’s military-industrial power and technological might”.

From a historical perspective, Dassault Aviation’s fortunes in India began to dip since the early 1980s when earlier ‘verbal’ commitments from the MoD and IAF HQ were not converted into reality. For instance, the IAF’s well thought-out plan for inducting close to 180 single-engined Mirage 2000H/TH MRCAs along with up to 60 twin-engined Mirage 4000s were brushed aside throughout the 1980s in favour of a USSR-supplied fleet of MiG-23MFs, MiG-23BNs, MiG-27Ms and MiG-29B-12s. This grievous setback, coupled with the loss of a Saudi order for the Mirage 4000 (whose R & D was privately financed by Dassault Aviation), imposed an enormous financial burden on the French aircraft manufacturer throughout the 1990s, which in turn has since affected the Rafale’s series-production rate, and has also prevented Dassault Aviation from investing in financially viable mid-life upgrade packages for those Mirage 2000s that are presently in service with the air forces of Egypt, Greece, India and Peru (this is the subject-matter of a standalone analysis, which will be detailed in the very near future). Secondly, unlike its US-based counterparts, French aerospace OEMs have, since the 1990s, failed to grasp the enormous marketing advantages offered by way of industrial synergies when it comes to export-driven marketing strategies. For instance, for marketing the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet on a global scale, OEMs like Boeing Defense & Aerospace, GE Aero Engines, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman formed an integrated consortium as far back as 2001 and to all prospective export customers, it is this unified military-industrial consortium that has given technical presentations and conducted in-country product demonstrations, and most importantly, has also successfully implemented multi-party and multi-disciplinary direct/indirect industrial offsets obligations. In stark contrast, the Rafale’s marketing campaign has been conducted to date solely by Dassault Aviation, with other French OEMs like THALES, Sagem Défense Sécurité and Snecma Moteurs being left alone to promote their sub-systems and components on board the Rafale through their own individual ways and means. If one were to add to such woes the unsustainable nature of the French welfare state, one will understand why, despite having a product like the Rafale, which incorporates cutting-edge technologies, Dassault Aviation has consistently suffered from marketing reverses in Algeria, Australia, Morocco, Oman, Singapore, South Korea, the UAE and will soon, in all probability, in Brazil, Finland, India, Kuwait and Switzerland as well.

Last but not the least, US-based OEMs like Boeing Defense & Aerospace, GE Aero Engines, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications, Lockheed Martin and CAE have already bagged several lucrative contracts from the MoD and are now well on their way toward implementing their multi-disciplinary direct/indirect industrial offsets obligations with more than 60 selected India-based industrial entities (inclusive of both DPSUs and private-sector companies). Some of these already-bagged contracts include that for eight Boeing P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance/ASW aircraft worth $2.1 billion (with another four units due to be ordered soon), the supply of an initial six Lockheed Martin-built built C-130J-30 Super Hercules transport aircraft worth $0.9 billion (with a follow-on contract for another six units now being negotiated), the purchase of 24 Boeing AGM-84 Harpoon Block II air-launched anti-ship cruise missiles worth $170 million, and the order for an initial 99 F414-GE-INS6 turbofans (plus options for another 49) worth an estimated $750 million for powering the projected Tejas Mk2. Add to this the expected orders—all for the consortium comprising Boeing Defense & Aerospace, GE Aero Engines, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman—in future for an initial 25 CH-47F Chinook heavylift helicopters, an initial 22 units (against a projected requirement for 40) of AH-64D Longbow Apache attack helicopters worth $550 million, and the procurement of ten C-17A Globemaster III strategic transport aircraft worth $5.8 billion, and one will be able to see the big picture—an enormous American pie which, within India, will be shared over the next 25 years (though multi-disciplinary direct/indirect industrial offsets contracts) with the bulk of India’s existing aerospace and military-industrial entities.  

A final word about the famous remark made by the IAF’s Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik on February 10, on how the M-MRCA competitors could interpret the MoD’s selection of the winning bid. He had remarked that “if other competitors [who lose out in the race] put spokes in, then the timelines would get pushed back”. Going by historical precedent, he was, in all likelihood referring the incident on April 19, 2002, when Dassault Aviation filed a court injunction in Seoul (against Seoul’s decision to order the F-15K instead of the Rafale), disputing the selection process, which it claimed to be biased in favour of US interests.—Prasun K. Sengupta


Ravi Nair said...

Prasun Dada! Good to see that you started blogging again. One thing I like about your blog is the serious discussions and your explanations. Many Indian Bloggers who claim as the 'defense experts' do not bother to reply to readers' comments either they are too arrogant or little knowledge on the topic they write.

You are an exception.
So I would like to see your blog going.. Please do not stop!
An admirer, Ravi.

Anonymous said...

Very interested and documented article but comparing Rafale Tranche 4 and Hornet International Roadmap is not very pertinent: Tranche 4 has been contracted in 2009 and is now developed and qualified (at least the RBE2 radar). Hornet roadmap is what it is : a roadmap, furthermore to be financed by export customers (which ones ?). In this case, why not considering also for instance Typhoon roadmap with thrust vectoring, naval version, and so on. I understand that IAF refused to take into account this kind of futuristic (and unfinanced) capabilities. Not to mention a 6th generation aircraft in ...what, 2024 ?Let's be serious...

rahulka said...

Very well written..Thanks.

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

There are several key R & D/qualification issues with the tranch 4 Rafale that have yet to be resolved. I've already highlighted one regarding the RBE-2 AESA-MMR. The other problem is industrial: Dassault's inability to ramp up the Rafale's production rate within realistic cost estimates. And FYI, the IAF has mandated that the to-be-chosen M-MRCA should be subjected to at least two major mid-life upgrades during its service-life with the IAF. What Boeing has done is taken a pro-active stand by proposing the near-term availability of the Hornet International Roadmap, and the consequent NGAD fighter. Therefore, factually, the IAF through its RFP formally wanted as many details as possible about the future growth potential of all the M-MRCA contenders.
Regarding European solutions like the Rafale or Eurofighter EF-2000, there are far deeper problems at the industrial level, which I will highlight tonight in my concluding section. But if you want to know what some of the problems are, then I suggest you download the UK’s National Audit Office's audit report of the EF-2000 Typhoon programme, dated March 2, 2011.

Anonymous said...

Good to see you back !!!

Really do enjoy your reports....pls keep them coming.....

Anonymous said...

Nice to hear you back after a very long absence. At least, now, we will get some authentic information, not some rubbish write-ups.


Anonymous said...

Hi.....waiting for your "concluding" note........

Also' if I may ask....what is happening to the long list of pending procurements...(A) C-17's; (b) 6 more C-130's; (c) Heavy Helicopters; (d) attack helicopters; (e) Light Helicopters; (f) new order of 50(or59)Mi-17's (g) Basic Trainers; (h)

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

Just posted the concluding part. The basic trainer reqmt is likely to be met by the Raytheon/Beechcraft T-6A Texan. As an inducement, Raytheon/Beechcraft has offered to team up with HAL to co-develop the HTT-40 basic turboprop trainer.

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

To rahulka, Anon@5.48PM & Anand: many thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks......clear, neat, precise, informed and thought thru.(Reminds me of the olt IDR Reports)

25 Chinooks ??? I had been reading all these months...the initial order was for 15 (+9 more options).......

Also, on the basic trainer....grapevine had it that Elbit was really pushing the Grob ?? And the South Koreans had also done well....

Any news on the Jaguar upgrade/re-engine...has RR responded ?? Or we go back to the single-vendor clause and start the process...till the poor Jags become obsolete !!

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

To Anon Above: The reqmt for Chinooks is actually for 15 utility versions (CH-47F) and 10 configured for special operations (MH-47E). The Grob 120 and KT-1 are good machines, but the former is optimised for ab-initio/primary flying training, while the latter, like the EMB-314 Super Tucano, is optimised for close air support during counter-insurgency operations. What the IAF wants is only a tandem-seat basic turboprop trainer with performance levels just below those of either the Pilatus PC-21 or EMB-314 Tucano. The T-6A Texan II, derived from the PC-9, is seen by IAF HQ as being an ideal compromise on both cost grounds as well as industrial offsets offer package (although Pilatus is still working hard to team up with HAL to co-develop the HTT-40 BTT).
As for the Jaguar IS upgrade plan, it would be safe to assume that Honeywell's F125 has been selected over the R-R Adour Mk821, following competitive evaluations of the two turbofans.

Anonymous said...

"Requirement for Chinooks" ? Well, the requirement is for a heavy lift, irrespective of the type of helicopter, the Russians are still in the loop. Same remarks for attack helos.

Looks like you see the Americans winning all tenders in India...and the Israelis winning the non-tenders. That's an interesting theory, we shall see.

Anonymous said...

Prasun, you did not answer the key question : who is going to finance Hornet International Roadmap ? Is it also of US Navy interest ?

Anonymous said...

Well, Rafale folks will be happy to hear about your theory that they are dead forever on the export market because their destiny is to remain "n°2". You will certainly remember that in South Korea Rafale was technically better rated that F-15. Dassault mistake was to believe that this would be enough to kick the US out of this country. This wasn't, South Korea could not afford that. The situation is not the same in India and other fully independent countries and the outcome might be different too.

Anonymous said...

We really seem to be going the "American" way...????

All eggs in one basket ?? and, the very obvious worry about the American support in troubling times...(Or are we only looking at China ....with Pakistan no longer the No 1 worry)

At this rate the Americans will make far more than the $10 Billion Obama had talkes about.....$4-5 Billion for the C-17's + $1 Billion for 6 more 9-130's + $1+ Billion for the 22 Apaches + $1+ Billion for the 15 Chinooks + $400(??) For 75 T-6 Trainers + $ 500 Million for the Honeywell Jaguar engines + the mother of all of them...$12++ Billion for the F-18's .......

And, that's only the AirForce......add the Navy (4 more P8I's+ more Harpoons+ helicopters....) And the Army (M-177's, Javelin's....)

The American's must be salvating !!!!!!

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

To Anon@10:06AM: The reqmt is for a heavylift helicopter that should be made available in two distinct versions: heavylift utility and special operations-optimised. I would very much like to see the Mi-26T2 being offered in both such versions, however, I don't see that happening as yet. Secondly, the Mi-26T2's 100 man-hours of maintenance per flying hour doesn't go down too well against the CH-47F's 40 man-hours of maintenance per flying hour.

To Anon@10:08AM: To me that question is of virtually no relevance, as the Boeing-led consortium has enough internal financial resources to see the Super Hornet Int'l Roadmap reach fruition. In a country where about US$30 billion has been spent annually since the early 1980s to finance an unknown number of 'black programmes' securing funds for implementing the Super Hornet Int'l Roadmap is of little consequence to the concerned OEMs (a luxury the European OEMs like Dassault Aviation & Eurofighter GmbH haven't had thus far).

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

To Anon@10:13AM: "You will certainly remember that in South Korea Rafale was technically better rated that F-15".
That statement at that time was highly speculative and wasn't supported by facts. For instance, the Rafale at that time wasn't being made available with the RBE-2 AESA-MMR, not was its Spectra EW suite available then. The same went for the AASM family of PGMs as well. Presently, the APG-63(V)3 AESA-MMR is readily available for the F-15K, and if the ROKAF wishes, the F-15Ks can also be upgraded to F-15SE, is desired. As for the Rafale, we're told that the RBE-2 AESA-MMR will be fully qualified by next year on the Rafale. Beyond that, there's no other offer presented by Dassault Aviation in terms of the Rafale's future growth potential. Finally, the choice comes down to this: is it wiser to procure a super-duper M-MRCAs whose delivery rates will be too slow, and whose through-life-cycle costs will be so prohibitively expensive so as to preclude the accumulation of adequate flight-hours reqd for maintaining the aircrew's combat efficiency? Ultimately, the operator has to balance its reqmts for cutting-edge technologies with fleet availability/reliability. It has nothing to do an 'independent-minded' country.

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

To Anon@10:32AM: Well..if we could survive the past 40-odd years by putting all our eggs in one basket (i.e. the USSR basket), then what's wrong with adopting the Yanky basket now? If we have survived for more than one decade without the promised level of product support from Russia (even in the absence of any sanctions), then surely India will be able to live with the US-mandated conditionalities as well. Left to choose between the lesser of the two evils, the choice then becomes obvious, doesn't it? And lastly, in an era where mere weapons procurement exercises are dwarfed by the quantum and quality of direct/indirect industrial offsets, and where the strong Euro is pitted against a weak US$, I'm afraid neither the Russians (who also charge payments in Euros) nor the Europeans nor the Scandinavians have anything to offer that will even come close to matching what Uncle Sam has to offer. That's the reality we have to understand, accept and live with.

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

To Anon@10:32AM: China has been India's main worry since 1962, and it was officially confirmed by the Govt of India only in April 1998. And China will be India's main worry for the next 50 years as well. Beijing has already arrogated to itself the status of being the dominant economic/military power in South/Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific, and it has formally conveyed this to the US as well. The US also knows only two well that its pre-eminence in the Western Pacific and East Asia will definitely decline over the next 50 years. So, the choice is now up to India: become a vassal state of the PRC in South and Southeast Asia for the years to come, or stand up and be counted as a credible global economic/military power while joining hands with Australia, Japan, the US and ASEAN member-states like Singapore and Vietnam.

Anonymous said...

F-18 SH may be a dead log and shall be old enough by 2025 fit only for manually ramming the doors of the enemy fortresses. But even then the F-18 SH is being dragged in to the competition in the name of projected hyper technologies and assumedly cheap prices bypassing at least two better candidates.

Actually future does not belongs to any one of the six MMRCA contenders as it belongs to the Fifth Gen like AMCA/FGFA and then to the unmanned UFOs. So MMRCA is only an ad-hoc time gap arrangement with some expected technological and capability enhancement over Tejas-mk2. At least five out of the six MMRCA contenders have the capability to fulfill the requirements.

F-18 is in the competition only because its advanced contenders are unable to go too far and too fast due to cash crunches, so it will have to be a pity if the F-18 is selected. Albeit it should be noted that India should not purchase more than 126 numbers under MMRCA may it be F-18 or any other aircraft, as this will be a gross wastage of money and time.

Anonymous said...

Hi Prasun,
Why shoould india join hands with japan,US,Australia against china?
Aftee all they do deserve to be a major superpower in Asia.
We will be playing into the hands of the west. We should definitely defend our interests when in conflict with china's.
india should try to make the intl community more inclusive and act against western attempts to preserve their vision of a world they control.Things are changing.West is in an economic decline.We should lead the dev nations in establishing a world which doesnt dance to the west's tunes.Make sure another Iraq or Libya does not happen

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

To Anon@7.43PM: You seem to be overly-optimistic about the prospects of both the FGFA and AMCA. May I remind you that these are both futuristic platforms and the FGFA will not be available before 2018, and until then what exactly will be inducted to replace the MiG-21 Bisons and MiG-27UPGs that will be decommissioned by then? Are you suggesting that the IAF have a depleted squadron strength of only 20 combat squadrons? As for the AMCA, do rest assured that even by 2020 this will remain a pipe-dream. Do not fall for all the unsubstantiated rhetoric that comes out of the DRDO from time to time, the latest being the one by Dr V K Saraswat about the existence of a functional designed-in-India BMD system. If Indian industry today cannot absorb all the ancillary technologies being supplied by DCNS for the domestic production of Scorpene SSKs, what gives one the confidence to claim that Indian industry will be able to design and develop a super-duper AMCA? Let's get realistic and not live in utopia!

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

To Anon@12AM: Hi! Of course, the PRC deserves to be a major superpower in Asia, no one's denying that. However, I do have objections about the PRC's intention to re-implement the ancient tributary/vassal system under which the PRC arrogates to itself the status of being the pre-eminent and sole superpower in Asia to the exclusion of others. In addition, India does not have (nor will have) the power or wherewithal to stand up to the PRC on her own even over the next 50 years. Therefore, if she wants to, she will have to do so in concert with other like-minded democracies (it is futile talking about the East and West in today's globalised environment). Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya happened not so much due to Western interference, but because of the inherent tribalism prevailing in the societies of these countries, which have only promoted sectarism and prevented the rise of social cohesion and a sense of national identity in these countries.

Anonymous said...

@Prasun, Do you have any idea why there was this huge descrepancy in the price of the Australian C-17's and the Indian ones?. Why is the US response to set matters right taking so long?.

Or was this just a case of a jittery GOI trying to cover and protect its flanks.

I am inclined to think a bit of both.

Anonymous said...

Hi Prasun,

In a country where about US$30 billion has been spent annually since the early 1980s to finance an unknown number of 'black programmes' securing funds for implementing the Super Hornet Int'l Roadmap is of little consequence to the concerned OEMs

Why are the Americans being so competetive in the global arms market when they will survive w/o foreign customers? Is it to kill off any competition(National interests) from indegenous programmes in other countries?

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

To Anon@5.46PM: The price quoted for the RAAF's C-17As is the contractual amount due after contract signature. In India's case, what's on the table now is only the US DSCA's INDICATIVE price, and not the final figure which will be quoted in the signed contract. The actual cointract value for the IAF's C-17As will emerge only after the principal and supplementary contracts are inked for the aircraft and its related product support packages, flying training components, and establishment of ground-based product support and flying training infrastructure.

To Anon@9.52PM: Well, the easiest answer is to amortise the R & D costs incurred in any way possible. Besides, it is always preferable to have a competitive environment for importing customers like India, as she can benefit from the best available deal on offer at the table, don't you think?

The end said...

Question, wher did you find that :

"the THALES-built Radar à Balayage Electronique-2 (RBE-2) AESA-MMR—having an antenna array equipped with 1,001 "

about the 1 001 seems like a strange numer lol ^ ^

Looping said...

i forget (sorry for double post)...
The factories of rafale in france are set for 3 aircraft per month.

The issue here is that the french gouvernement want to reduce to as low as possible the number of aicraft which goes out durring the crisis. So nowaday 11 a/c per year instead of 36

Sancho said...

Is there any reason why my comment was deleted?

May I ask you something else then? One of your points in the article was, that the unit costs of Rafale will be higher, if the production rate will be increased to 20 fighters. But why should the they increase it to such rates?
Even if Rafale would win MMRCA, only 18 fighters would be build in France, the rest is meant to be licence produced in India / by HAL!

Isn't it more important, how fast the wining vendor can set up the production line in India (under transfer of technology), instead of how many fighters they can produce in their country?

Also when we talk about licence production and costs. France has plenty of experience with several licence productions, JV and co-developments with Indian companies and has already the neccesary logistics available, for our industry as well as our forces. The US instead is a new player here, they only start to outsource the production of parts to India and we know that the transfer of technology will be very limited and logistics, supply and maintenance routes have to be set up from the start.

Doesn't this increase the cost of the F18 production? If they won't allow the licence production of key techs like the radar, they has to be produced in the US and shipped to India for the final assembly. Aren't these additional costs as well?

Hope that you will reply to this comment, because I would like to hear your view on this.

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

To Sancho: No one deleted your earlier comment, at least not me. Now, to answer your other queries:
1) As per the M-MRCA tender, only the first 18 units will be bought off-the-shelf. The remaining units will be licence-assembled (not licence-produced) in India by HAL. Rest assured, no country in this world will set up localised production facilities for just 220 aircraft. Even Boeing by itself does not build the entire F/A-18 airframe. Kaman Aerospace and Northrop Grumman too are component manufacturers for the F/A-18. In HAL's case too, since the mid-1960s what has existed is just the licenced-assembly capability, not licenced-production capability for combat aircraft.
2) There is a lot more to ToT than just replicating a production line for a combat aircraft. For instance, the assured supply of DRFM memory cards and EW threat library generators for on-board EW systems and airborne radars.
3) Between France and the US the latter definitely has more experience in multinational licenced-assembly programmes. Just compare the number of countries that have licence-assembled the Mirage 2000 with the number of countries that have licence-assembled (and are still doing so) the F-16.
4) The US a new player in India? The US aviation industry has been involved with Hindustan Aircraft Co since World War-2!!!
5) As far as costings go, the prevailing weak US$ vis-a-vis the strong Euro will anyday ensure that a US-origin product costs much less than its European counterpart.
6) Who ever told you that non-US AESA-MMRs like the RBE-2 or ES-05 Raven or Captor-E will be fully produced inside India? Even till this day, only minor mechanical components of the NO-11M Bars PESA-MMR are being licence-built by HAL. More than 70% of this radar is still being sourced from Russia. During Aero India 2011 HAL displayed in full view for all to see the various components of the Bars PESA-MMR that are being licence-built. Lastly do rest assured that it is hell-of-a-lot cheaper to import items like the radar totally off-the-shelf rather than try to produce every bit of it in-country. Show me one industrial entity in the whole world that has to date invested money for producing an entire radar for fulfilling an order for just 250 units. Creating an industrial R & D/production infrastructure and training an industrial workforce for developing and producing items like radars is four times more expensive than creating a similar infrastructure for just licence-assembling airframes.