HEADLINES:
IAF already has an order for 22 Apache Attack Helicopters with Boeing । Apaches for the Army are to have the same configuration । There will no more field and firing trials । Army has projected a requirement of 39 helicopters । MoD sanctions combat helicopters for the Army for the first time । Six Apache AH 64E to be given to the Indian Army as a beginning । India Marks 70th Anniversary of Independence Day August 15 । India Strategic Congratulates All Indians Everywhere । HAL Successfully Installs Israeli AESA Radar on a Jaguar aircraft । IAF Bases at Pathankot and Jorhat Upgrading Infrastructure to Receive Boeing Apache Attack Helicopters in 2018 । Dinesh Keskar, Boeing Sr VP Sales for India and Asia Pacific for Civil Aviation, says the region will account for 40% of aircraft sales । China will be the biggest market and India after that । India remembers its heroic martyrs on Kargil Vijay Diwas July 26 । Ram Nath Kovind sworn-in as 14th President and Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces । Iraq Foreign Minister Dr Ibrahim al-Jaafari visits India July 24-28 । He called on Vice President Hamid Ansari, EAM Sushma Swaraj and discussed host of bilateral issues । Indian NSA Ajit Doval visits China to take part in BRICS NSA meet । Indian NSA’s visit comes amid India-China Dokalam stand-off । G20 should collectively oppose terrorism financing, franchises, safe havens, support and sponsors: PM Modi at Informal BRICS leaders meeting in Hamburg, Germany । He appreciated momentum in BRICS under the Chairmanship of President Xi and extended full cooperation and best wishes for the BRICS Xiamen Summit in Sep, 2017 । President Xi appreciated India’s strong resolve against terrorism । The Chinese President also appreciated India’s success in economic and social development and wished India even bigger success । US lifts personal electronics ban on Emirates, Etihad and Qatar airlines । Passengers on these three carriers can now carry their laptops and tablets along with them for flights to all destinations in the US । India, Israel sign 7 agreements including on space technology, agriculture and water conservation । Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in Tel Aviv for his 3-day visit to Israel from July 4-6 । The visit, termed as ‘historic,’ is the first ever by an Indian PM to Israel । Israeli PM Netanyahu breaks protocol to receive PM Modi at the airport and accompany him on his engagements । PM Modi visits Holocaust Memorial Museum at Yad Vashem । PM Modi’s visit comes at a time when the two nations are celebrating the establishment of 25 years of their diplomatic relations । Happy 4th of July to all our friends in the U.S । India launches communication satellite GSAT-17 June 29 । GSAT-17 was launched using European Ariane 5 launch vehicle from Kourou, French Guiana । Government gives ‘in principle’ approval for disinvestment of Air India, 5 of its subsidiaries । Prime Minister Modi-headed CCEA gave its approval to fourth tranche recommendations of NITI Aayog on strategic disinvestment of CPSE June 28 । Possible sale of one more Boeing C-17 aircraft to India approved – Pentagon।brating 70 years of Diplomatic Relationship ।
August 18, 2017
Follow us on

MRCA Dogfight for Indian Skies Begins Again

IAF needs 400 aircraft, and Navy 60
By Gulshan Rai Luthra December 2016
 

hornet_hero_lrg_02_1280x720

New Delhi/Paris. The Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) competition for the Indian skies is beginning again, this time for a much larger number than the 2007 figure of 189 MMRCAs asked by the Indian Air Force (IAF).

This time, there is also an additional requirement of some 60 twin-engine shipboard fighters by the Indian Navy, which wants them delivered in about five years as of now.

IAF has been losing two squadrons of Soviet-vintage MiG series aircraft every year, and although the numbers are being made up to an extent by the HAL-produced Su-30 MKIs, the depletion process is continuing and an urgent decision is needed to acquire around 400 aircraft, mostly through indigenous manufacture but as fast as possible.

Notably, in 2007, the minimum requirement was put at 126 plus 63 options (189) but their acquisition process under the Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition was scrapped in 2015 over price differences with the French Dassault whose Rafale was selected in 2012.

The Government then opted for a small number of 36 aircraft, or two squadrons, last year under a direct Government-to-Government deal with France for nearly Euro 8 billion inclusive of about Euro 2.5 billion for India-specific modifications and weapons as part of the package. The first batch of Rafale twin-engine fighters should arrive in India in 2019. It is nearly 10 years since the MMRCA tender was floated, and understandably, many more of the older 1970s generation of Soviet origin aircraft have meanwhile faded away. Keeping in mind mind that the acquisition process takes some five to seven years, the depletion in numbers has to factor IAF’s likely squadron strength till 2022 at least, by when new combat jets should hopefully arrive in some level of comforting strength.

400 NEW AIRCRAFT FOR IAF IS NEED OF THE HOUR

main-qimg-64a2991ae7f744780daabea7bb16824d-c

Air Marshal VK Jimmy Bhatia (Retd), former Commander-in-Chief of the Western Air Command (WAC) and Air Marshal Ashok Goel (Retd), former Director General Inspection, say the Government should work towards numbers and timelines. Twenty IAF squadrons will need about 400 aircraft, and that is literally the need of the hour.

An IAF fighter squadron, or Unit Establishment, generally has 18 aircraft for combat missions, and at least three more are require for Maintenance Reserve and Strike off Wastage (MRSOW). It has to be kept in mind that except for the Su-30 MKIs, IAF has not acquired any combat aircraft after the Mirage 2000 and MiG-29 in the 1980s. IAF should have though nearly 300 Su-30 MKI air dominance fighters.

An IAF proposal to upgrade some 100 1970s-generation Jaguars with more powerful Honeywell engines and better avionics to extend their lives by 10 to 15 years is also pending for rather long in the Ministry of Defence.

IAF’s operational strength of combat jets is around 700 aircraft, including the older MiG-27, MiG-29 and Jaguar aircraft. About 50 Mirage 2000 fighters are also 25 to 30 year old but now under upgrade at HAL in Bangalore with technical assistance from the French Dassault, Safran and Thales. That helps to an extent.

Both the IAF and Navy are looking for 4.5generation capabilities, that is what was stipulated for MRCA, and plus in newer technologies, to keep up with the developments after 2007. The overall requirement is huge, and that is why, the Government is rightly looking for Make in India collaborations and Transfer of Technologies (ToT).

WHO IS IN THE FRAY?

The Ministry of Defence has already sought single engine capabilities from the US Lockheed Martin and Swedish Saab, and both have offered to manufacture their respective aircraft, the updated F-16 Block 70 and Gripen NG, in India in collaboration with private or public sectors.

Boeing has already offered to build the advanced version of its twin-engine F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet in India for the IAF.

Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha had told India Strategic that all these three companies had made unsolicited offers under make in India programme. The French Dassault and even European consortium’s Eurofighter could make similar offers and the Government could possibly consider them. All the five manufacturers took part in the aborted MMRCA competition, although Dassault’s Rafale was selected in the final run against Eurofighter.

Air Chief Marshal Raha also said that IAF was retaining the technology options as in the MRCA programme, and any new acquisitions had to be MRCA-plus in terms of engine power, EW systems and multi-role capabilities

Authoritative French sources told this writer recently in Paris that Dassault, with French Government support, was going to send a proposal to India for Rafale’s production under Make in India. No details were given but a source said “we are aware” of both the IAF and Navy requirements, pointing out that Rafale was designed from the beginning as a naval fighter and accordingly should be acceptable to both the forces. It may be noted that it is difficult to transition from an air force version to a heavier, and strengthened, naval version for a fighter, but easier in technology in the reverse.

The same is also true for the Boeing F/A-18 Advanced Super Hornet, which is also a contender for both the IAF and Navy requirements.

In a recent interaction, Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba, told India Strategic that the Navy was looking for shipboard fighters within a span of five to six years. He did not give the numbers but mentioned that at present only the Boeing F/A-18 and Rafale were available for this role. He expected a decision by the Government in this regard very soon.

The Indian Navy is expecting its 40,000-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier IAC-1 in the next couple of years. It would be capable of operating both the MiG-29Ks, of which the Navy has 45 aircraft, as well as western flying machines from its 14-degree ski jump.

saab-gripen-ng-saab

SINGLE OR TWIN ENGINES THEN?

The Navy apparently needs twin engine aircraft, and if they are to be made in India, then some commonality with IAF is required. On the other hand, single engine jets should be cheaper by 25 per cent and if the aircraft are needed in large numbers, then the overall price would matter a lot.

The Ministry of Defence has a tough choice, but one hopes for early decisions. Hopefully within December as the country celebrates the 4th of this month as the Indian Navy Day.

Email*

SPOTLIGHT

dgmo

Indian Army Strikes Terrorist Camps in POK

New Delhi. India struck seven terrorists camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir on September 28, ten...

spotlight4

India Successfully Launches 20 Satellites in Single Flight

Sriharikota/New Delhi. In its 36th flight ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C34 successfully launched the...

UPCOMING EVENTS

Logo
banner 109x75
Defcom_India_2017

Our Archive