12th Aero India Show was held in Bangalore from 20th February to 24th February. There are much talk about the MMRCA 2.0 tender competition to supply medium multi-role combat aircraft to the Indian Air Force. What are the chances of participants?
This is why Government is trying its best to speed up the new MMRCA 2.0 tender. However, before talking about the competition at hand, it would be worthwhile to look back at the results of the previous tender.
The six firms had competed in an earlier attempt to provide 126 fighter aircraft to the IAF, known as the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) program. The MMRC was scrapped after Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2015 had announce that India would instead procure 36 Rafale jets from France in government to government deal.
In April 2018, Indian Ministry of Defense published a Request for Information (RFI) for the procurement of 110 multirole combat aircraft for the country’s air force as a part of “Make in India” Initiative.
The six firm which are competing for the Indian Air Force contract worth 15 Billion Dollar are Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Fighting Falcon, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, SAAB’s Grippen and Russian United Aircraft Corporation’s MIG-35 have responded to the RFI.
According to the request, 17 fighter are to be delivered flight-ready fighter jets and should be start within 36 months from the date of signing of the contract and should be completed within 60 month, while remaining 93 would be built in India by a company chosen by the Indian Production Agency (IPA) under license and should be commence within 60 month after the signing of contract and be completed within 144 months. The document also specified that 82 of the aircraft should be single seat, with the rest being dual-seat jets can be used for pilot training.
At present, the effective combat strength of the IAF is a source of much concern for the country. According to the defense strategy, IAF should have at least 42 fighter squadrons at its disposal. However, due to a shortage of combat aircraft, the number of combat-ready squadrons could fall to as low as 30.
The production of homegrown Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas is moving at a sluggish pace. The situation is further exacerbated by the fact that IAF will soon have to decommission its obsolete MIG-21 fighters. Desperate times call for desperate measure- that is, at least, according to defense expert community.
According to the expert the MMRCA 2.0 will feature Aircraft of Six participant and Su-35 (Russia). At first glance, it would seem that the list of participant has not change since the first MMRC tender. The only difference is the addition of the Su-35.
However, while carrying the same names, all of the fighter jets have changed a lot technology-wise.
For example, Lockheed Martin will be presenting its enhanced F-16 Block 70 fighter jet, which carries cutting-edge on-board radio-electronic equipment and electronic warfare systems that are, in many aspects, just as good as the ones installed in the F-35 5th generation fighter.
Boeing will present its advanced F/A-18E/F Super Hornet with its increased combat radius, new EW suite, and more fuel-efficient engines. Even though the Eurofighter Typhoon lost to Rafale last time, now the European consortium will present a much improved version of this fighter jet. Some 550 of them are currently in use around the world. SAAB’s Gripen E is equipped with a more powerful thrust system and new avionics. SAAB claims that Gripen E was created in “a digital era” and is the jet of the future. 250 Gripen E jets are currently in operation, and the Swedish Air Force has about 100 of them. What concerns India is the fact that up to 30 percent of its parts are produced in the US.
As for the Russian MiG-29M/MiG-35, in the state that it was presented during the first MMRCA tender, its chances of winning the bid were rather slim. Moreover, unlike other participants, at the time, the MiG-35 had not yet been mass-produced and was not in service with the Russian Air Force.
However, since the first MMRCA tender, the Russian multi-role fighter jet has undergone dramatic changes for the better. The way it is today, it is completely in line with the requirements set by the Indian Air Force. Besides, Russia is ready not only to supply flight-ready aircraft, but also to transfer all the necessary technology and documentation to partner companies contracted to produce the fighters in India. Compared to the rest of the MMRCA 2.0 participants, this time Russia’s chances look much more promising.
According to some Russian expert, Indian government noted that Russia has traditionally offered a cheaper deal, but Defense expert believes that with the Lifecycle expectancy and repairs, the cost of Russian jets could end up being significantly higher.
However, Russia is now offering a wide range of after-sales services that comply with existing global standards. Ilya Tarasenko, vice president of the United Aircraft Corporation in charge of military and technical cooperation, also said that Russia is ready to use the client’s infrastructure to provide the full scope of after-sales services, which helps create new jobs and involve locals into the real sector of the economy.