Saturday, August 8, 2015

MMRCA Ver 2.0 Soon

MMRCA Ver 2.0 Soon

   There is a buzz doing the round at the Raksha Mantri establishment coming from a reliable source that government of India will soon announce a new MMRCA tender to procure some 90 Combat Jets under make in India scheme to replace the mother of all deals to procure 126 MMRCA which was officially scrapped some days back when the decision was intimated in written submission in parliament by the defense Minister.

   The new MMRCA tender to buy 90 combat Jets could be Light or a medium category or mix of both to be manufactured in India under Make in India campaign of the NDA govt. The present deal is not yet official and it's speculative in nature however the sources that leaked this information are very reliable.

   The real reason behind the cancellation of the earlier MMRCA deal or the Rafale deal is the cost issue, as French accepts all Indian conditions by transferring almost all top french latest state of the art technologies, they ask more money to transfer the said technologies. The actual Rafale deal was to buy 18 or a Squadron of fighters from French firm Dassault, the remaining balance some 108 numbers was to be built in India at HAL's production center, 50% of the deal value to be invested back in India, and 100% Transfer of Technology(ToT) under the make in India policy.

    Unfortunately because of the cost escalation, initial $12 billions to $15 billions, the government of India had issue with payment due to budgetary limitation, add to that was the bone of contention between HAL and Dassault. Dassault wanted to manage HAL's assembly line in India, where as HAL opposed Dassault's supervision in their work. Offset clause which Dassault disagreed was to take full responsibility of quality of HAL produced Rafale. A complex contract was under negotiation by both Vendors with no end in sight. Since IAF strongly pitches Rafale the reason being IAF's familiarity with the French made Mirage Aircraft for multi role mission more than the HAL made Su 30 MKI Aircrafts.

Let's look at the complex issues.

  • The Government of India had budget limitation,
  • HAL's wouldn't want direct Supervision,
  • Dassault couldn't guarantee Aircraft's quality without direct supervision and
  • IAF's was in urgent need of Multi role Combat Aircrafts

    The above negotiations hit the road block that led to the Government's cancellation of the earlier Rafale deal and went for a direct purchase of Rafale Aircraft. The direct purchase of the shelf of 36 Rafales has been valued around $5 billions including the weapon system (hundred each of MICA EM, IR and Meteor missile costs half a Billion, and the CNC ask Dassault to accommodate the Indian made Astra BVR missile in the Rafale's arsenal, that adds up additional cost while Countries like Egypt and Qatar signed deal within a month with Dasault it's only with India that the feal could not be finalised(We all know in the past during the UPA regime delay was amplified due to scam/kickback fear)

   The IAF insist the Government their requirement to field more than 8 squadrons of medium fighters as the current in principle arrangement of two squadrons is not enough.

    With the continuous pressure from the IAF, it's expected that the government will once again float a tender to acquire 90 aircrafts under make in India. It's clear that IAF will select the Rafale, there were many reasons why IAF selects the Rafale, from it's size to it's flying capability, multi role mission, 4++ generation platform etc. A simple example in favour of Rafale is most IAF hangers are built to house the early MiG variants, usually they are small and compact enough to fit in small size concrete shelters, but they don't have enough room to accommodate much larger fighters like Su-30 MKI.

    The Rafale is small in size which can perfectly fit in the existing shelters. Other Contenders like Sweden's Saab Gripen and MiG 35 is out of the race because of many reasons, in Gripen's case it's engine comes from the US and it's a single engine aircraft, when use in low level most single engine fighters have problems despite foreign objects in the jet intakes and jet air flow, but with the twin engines the survivability increases by 100%. The MiG 35 is still in production so combat worthiness is still a subject of debate Or in plain simple words it's not yet battle proven; there is no clear information about the AESA radar, major issues are the Russian Engine is not quite upto the mark when compare to their Western competitors, Russian electronic attack capabilities much lower than the western and American ones.

    The advantages of Russian Planes are they are more maneuverable than the western and American fighters and enjoy's aerodynamic superiority. Having said that those shortfalls were compensated by advance tracking and missile system possessed by the western and American fighter planes. If low cost fighter was the sole consideration the Mig 35 is the sure winner unfortunately IAF annual bill for maintenance cost more than the procurement cost as CAG Reports mentioned that and the combat readiness of the fighter Jets stays somewhere between 60% to 70%, meaning out of 100 numbers of MiGs which are operational only 60 or 70 are combat ready. For eg. if IAF asks the MiG 35 to do one more sortie before the Night, the ground crew will take another 2 hours to complete the ground clearance, the Rafale is the only fighter that can do more number of sorties than all other fighters, and can be configured quickly for different roles so it's a true multi role fighter.


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