Thursday, April 24, 2008

Eurofighter's "Ready for India" event in Delhi

At a little past noon on Thursday, at an extravagant event in Delhi's Imperial Hotel ballroom, EADS formally invited India to become a "partner" of the Eurofighter Typhoon programme. The invitation was formally extended by Bernhard Gerwert, CEO of EADS Military Air Systems in the presence of a bunch of member country Ambassadors/Charge d'Affaires, but had me a little puzzled. Who are these guys kidding (actually, who are all six of the MRCA contenders kidding about "partnership"!)? There's no partnership here. But Gerwert pressed on. He indicated that if India were to sign on the dotted line for 126 Typhoons, it would automatically be given technological and development participation in future tranches of the fighter plane platform. Like Northrop-Grumman offering the Navy technological participation in future variants of the E-2 Hawkeye. Attractive, but a little out of place.

The Eurofighter event comes four days before the RfP response proposal expires on April 28 -- six fat proposals will be submitted by five embassies to the Ministry of Defence on the morning of April 28. Everyone's obviously waiting till the last minute, hoping to get a final juicy bit of inside info on a competitor's bid document, and alter their own accordingly (that isn't far-fetched at all, by the way)!

Boeing sent in a whirlwind press release late Thursday evening, for the first time announcing the existence of an F/A-18IN variant for India, announcing the following:

"The Boeing Company today delivered a detailed 7,000-page proposal offering its advanced F/A-18E/F Super Hornet to the Indian Air Force as part of India’s Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition. Five roller bags containing copies of Boeing’s MMRCA proposal are shown being readied for delivery to India on Tuesday April 22, 2008 in St. Louis, MO. The Super Hornet variant being offered to India, the F/A-18IN is based on the F/A-18E/F model flown by the U.S. Navy and currently being built for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)."

Yesterday, Gripen had a massive roll-out. The only chaps keeping real quiet about everything are the Russians and the French. Not a peep out of them in the last six months.


sniperz11 said...

I can see why the Russians have kept quiet. Well, if you look at it, they haven't really kept quiet, otherwise you, Vishnu and others wouldn't have got joyrides on their baby...

I'm pretty sure they're already greasing the wheels behind the scenes. The Russians are too shrewd and experienced at this game to think that public advertising will help in any way.

What gets me wondering is what the French are doing? Not a peep from them at all - its like they died or lost interest in the contract, and indeed, in all contracts around. Given how desperate their export situation is with the Rafale, I would have expected themt to be jumping and running around showing their wares, even if to the Air Force and MoD. The least they could have done would have been to bring along a Rafale to Aero India.

Anyway, I can only assume that they're keeping quiet for now, but will turn on the heat once the RFPs are submitted. I sure hope they do - they have everything on their side. Rafale is my favorite for the contract, but if the French act, well, French!, then they can't really expect to get anywhere.

Ankur said...

sniperz11: please do elaborate as to why you feel the Rafale is the best out of the lot. I have heard strong arguments for the Russian bird, and a couple (AESA-based) ones for the US ones. But none for the Eurofighter or the Rafale.

Is the Rafale superior in the air? Has it got better lifecycles? Why the heck has it not sold anything to *anybody* but France? Even the Gripen sold to South Africa.

India would be ridiculously shrewd to go for the Gripen (a fully independent supplier with *no* direct political agenda in India), but given geopolitical realities (Gas, Iran, Oil, China, Arms, Pakistan blah blah blah), that will most likely not happen.

sniperz11 said...

Ankur, the Rafale, all said and done, is an excellent aircraft. It has come very close to getting sales in Morocco, South Korea and Singapore; even beating the Eurofighter out in the competitions, but has had the bad luck of going up against the Americans in strong US-ally countries, and in the case of Morocco, their own ineptitude. The lack of sales in Europe is mainly due to the Eurofighter having a captive market in its member countries and their close allies.

It lacks an AESA radar, but the RBE-2AA is already ready, with American TR modules; but the European modules will most likely be ready by the time the trials begin... worst comes to worst, Dassault can offer to equip the first sqn with RBE-2 PESAs (later replaced with the AA version), with the later aircraft equipped with the AESAs. All in all, the RBE-2AA is probably ahead of the Zhuk AESA in program status. Even better, the French can offer us co-development (although, given the technology, that will be unlikely).

This requirement is for strike aircraft, multi-role aircraft to replace the Mig-27s and 23s. This is something that the 'omni-role' Rafale excels at. Its better than the Typhoon at Ground Attack. The Rafale has the advantage of being logistically and operationally similar to the Mirage 2000, which the IAF already operates happily. This commonality in logistics will reduce overheads in standardizing and making the aircraft compatible with existing infrastructure.

All in all, its an extremely good aircraft, on par with the Typhoon. While the Typhoon may be slightly better than the Rafale in air-to-Air combat, the Rafale is a mean strike fighter, and we have the Sukhois for the A2A bit.

Unlike the Americans and the Eurofighter consortium, with their multi-directional and moral tugs and pulls, the French are true businessmen, which means that we won't face any sanctions or spares problems. And the Rafale is definitely a better fighter than teh Mig-35, has a lower RCS, and is a much more modern airframe.

Plus, I'm hoping that their lack of orders and the way Sukhoi sales really took off after India bought the MKI should ensure that Dassault gives us a good deal. They've also offered to integrate the Kaveri when its ready, so if Kaveri does work, it will be a great idea to standardize the engines across a large number of our aircraft.

As for Saab, your point about independent supplier is actually a disadvantage in this case, since huge chunks of the aircraft are of American Origin... it wouldn't be hard to see what their reaction would be if their companies lost. And in case of sanctions, they wouldn't stand to lose money or jobs, which means that they'll happily impose sanctions on us.

Overall, I think Rafale is the best fit - best of both worlds, and familiar; followed perhaps by the Mig-35; and then the F-18; and Typhoon.

Shiv Aroor said...

sniperz: that's one long comment! and very nicely said too. how about posting a more detailed analysis of the pros and cons here on livefist?

sniperz11 said...

I'd love to Shiv, but I'm not going to be able to spare any time for the next 5-6 months. Plus, I'm not an expert at this stuff, so I don't think I'm the right guy to do it... but I'll try to do something, and send it to you; you can see if its ok or not. No promises though.

IMO, the best time to make such a comparison will be 3 months hence - by that time, enough information about the RFP and the proposals would have leaked out, and we'll have a clearer idea of what each of the bidders are offering. The Berlin Air Show should also give us a lot of answers... are you covering that Shiv???


Ankur said...

sniperz11: thanks for the info! Much appreciated.