Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force (IAF),
Air Chief Marshal P V Naik, told India Strategic
defence magazine (www.indiastrategic.in) that
the commercial bids of the two finalists in the
race for 126-plus Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft
(MMRCAs) would be opened mid-June (possibly before
the Paris Air Show beginning June 20), while those
of the combat, heavy lift and utility helicopters
and the basic trainer aircraft anytime between
the next few days to few weeks.
In an interview for India Strategics Paris
Air Show edition, the Air Chief said that IAF
had already finalized its choice for the combat
helicopter while that of the utility helicopter
had also been through with the Indian Army, which
is the lead buyer in this case. IAF will follow
and buy the same helicopter.
As for the heavy lift helicopter, the
final report can be expected within the few days,
All the required reports were either already
now with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) or just
about to be submitted, he said pointing out IAF
was well on its way towards transformation by
2022 or 2025.
Boeings Apache AH 64D and the Russian
Mi 28NE are the two contenders in the race for
combat helicopters while Boeings Chinook
the only helicopter which can float on
water and Russian Rosoboronexports
Mi 26 are in the fray for the heavy lift role.
The utility helicopter race for the Indian Army
and IAF has the EADS Eurocopter and Russian Kamov
in the race.
There is another project for an Indian-made
Multi Role Helicopter later in the decade.
Basic Trainer Aircraft
In the basic trainer role, Swiss Pilatus 7.
Korean KT 1 and US Beechcraft T 6 have been short-listed
by the IAF, and the finalist is also due to be
Existing Combat Aircraft
Notably, except for the Su 30 MKI aircraft and
Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers, nearly all the aircraft
with the Indian Air Force (IAF) are due for replacement
as they were bought during the 1980s a quarter
century ago. There is also a need to ensure that
the new systems are in line with the revolution
in electronic warfare systems, precision combat
radars like AESA and missile technologies.
The Air Chief did not give any figures, but
a rough calculation shows that IAF could be announcing
deals worth $ 30 billion, or more, by the end
The Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA)
deal, for which only the Eurofighter and Rafale
remain in the fray, could touch or exceed $ 15
billion if the option for additional 63 aircraft
is exercised in addition to the 126 units given
in the tender. The three helicopters and the trainer
aircraft, along with support and training packages,
could be another $ five billion.
IAF has already selected 12 VVIP helicopters
from Agusta Westland and 80 multi role Mi 17 1V
from Russia. A project to acquire and build some
200 Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft has also
already been signed with Russia.
Notably, IAF has already finalized a deal to
acquire 10 Boeing C 17 Globemaster III strategic
transport aircraft, and there is a decision to
add six and some more later.
It may be noted that as most deals involve Transfer
of Technologies and offsets, there are still additional
costs as the manufacturers pass various charges
essentially to the buyer.
He said that IAF had already inducted two of
the six special operations C 130J Super Hercules
aircraft ordered from US Lockheed Martin, and
by Feb 2012, all of them would be in the IAF inventory.
The support infrastructure is in place, on time,
he said adding: There are plans to acquire
an additional six C 130J through the same Foreign
Military Sales (FMS) route from the US Government.
Air Chief Marshal Naik said that in the case
of the MMRCA, the last significant milestone in
the selection process was over with the completion
of the Technical Oversight Committee (TOC) report.
The MoD could open the commercial tenders submitted
by Eurofighter and Rafale mid-June to determine
the lowest, or L-1, bidder.
However, it would still take a couple of months
as it just wont just be the price mentioned,
but the package in terms of direct costs, support
programmes, training, offsets and life cycle costs
which would determine the winner. The race though
is expected to be close.
Asked if the Eurofighter and Rafale were superior
in technologies to the other four contenders
Boeing F/A 18 IN Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin
F 16 IN, Swedish Gripen and Russian Mig 29
the Air Chief said: In all fairness, all
the six aircraft in the competition were good,
and more or less close to one another in performance.
But some of them had to be out, and some had to
be in, and thats it. Lets say that
the two European finalists were the most-compliant
in the 600-plus parameters that the IAF selection
team had set.
The Air Chief observed that admittedly, the
US had the best of the combat radars, weapons
and systems. But then, each of the six contenders
had given in writing that they would match the
IAF requirements, including those for systems
to be sourced from the US.
Air Chief Marshal Naik, who is at the vantage
point in overseeing the transformation process
of the Indian Air Force before his retirement
in July, said that by 2020, as part of our
capability buildup plan, IAF would have dedicated
combat, medium and heavy lift helicopters in all
sectors to adequately meet our requirements.
By then MMRCA and FGFA would have been inducted
and the existing Mirages, Mig 29 and other aircraft
upgraded to serve for some more years.
It was important, he pointed out, that IAF pilots
should be tech-savvy.
Over a period of time, IAF will be tech
savvy not only in terms of weapons and equipment
but also in its style of functioning, he
said adding that pilot training is going to be
intensified at all levels, and facilities expanded
to train more pilots.
Air Chief Marshal disclosed that the last of
the three Phalcon AWACS (Airborne Warning and
Control Systems Aircraft) had arrived in India
in March and deployed.
Two more AWACS mounted on IL 76 platforms had
also been ordered.
The process to augment the electronic surveillance
capability with aerostats balloons with
electronic surveillance radars was continuing.
Air Chief Marshal Naik also said that the process
to induct more midair refuellers was progressing.
EADS Airus 330 MRTT and Rosoboronexports
IL-78 (Mk 90) are competing.
Air Chief Marshal Naik said that the private
sector had to play a great role in defence, aerospace
and homeland security, and that the government
was now set to facilitate its participation.
There should be fair competition between the
state run companies and the private sector but
it is time, the private sector also set
up a strong industrial R&D base to make this
participation meaningful," he observed.