Friday, July 03, 2009

MMRCA Part 4 - The French Squall










The Rafale is an intriguing aircraft. Everyone remembers the dramatic way in which Dassault announced in 2006 that it was withdrawing the Mirage-2000-V from the MMRCA competition and instead fielding the the Rafale. It was a surprise move, considering the fact that the IAF had initially simply wanted to buy a whole lot more Mirages as its MMRCA, and was deeply convinced about the capabilities of the Dash-5. Fate (and Dassault) had other plans, it seemed. And with the government, in its wisdom, ordering the IAF to "open up" its qualitative requirements to engender a real competition, Boeing leapt into the fray with the Super Hornet. Almost on cue, the Mirage was withdrawn and the Rafale pitched. There are those who believe this was a seriously bad move, though Dassault unofficially sent across the message that there was no way in hell that it was going to keep its production line warm for the notorious time it was going to take for the Indian government to make its mind up, and also that there was no assurance that the Mirage would be selected finally. And therefore, the Rafale.

STRENGHTS

The Rafale smacks of the intangible "newness" of being a truly contemporary airplane built for today's missions. Conversely, it suffers none of the reputational hazards of being an old souped up platform with tinkering under the bonnet. Pitched as an "omnirole" fighter, the IAF has incrementally been convinced of what this term really means. Pitched as a logical next-step to the Mirage -- which the IAF loves with a passion -- the people at Dassault have managed to pitch well the idea that operating the Rafale will be a progression of the same ownership/operation experience. The pitch that IAF pilots will take to the Rafale more easily than any of the other fighters is something that has managed to be persuasive to an extent. While the Thales RBE2 AESA radar is still its final developmental phase, the IAF has been provided with regular and detailed updates on the radar's capabilities and performance parameters, and one officer, who has been part of the teams that receive these updates on a regular basis, says the IAF had no reason to doubt the laid down capabilities, and was in fact deeply impressed with what the French had managed to achieve in what is a science simply dominated by two American firms. Not just that, Dassault says the Rafale is the only aircraft in its class to be equipped with active arrays for both its radar and electronic warfare suite (EWS). IAF officers have in fact regularly been invited to witness RBE2 prototypes being tested on the Hack -- a Mirage-2000 test bed for the radar since 2003. In April 2008, the Rafale opened its operational account by being deployed to Afghanistan and being flown on 220 active combat missions, involving 730 flight hours. This may be peanuts compared to the operational logs of the Rafale's competition in the MMRCA, but the IAF recognises that this is a new aircraft in a transitory phase of tranche-level modernisation. At Red Flag 2008, IAF pilots got up close with the Rafale. A report on the Rafale was in fact informally submitted to Vayu Bhawan by the team when it returned. TheIAF has been given detailed presentations on the Rafale's multi-sensor data fusion system -- the RBE2 radar, Link 16 data bus, Front Sector Optronic (FSO) and SPECTRA self-defense suite and has been impressed by the ensemble. The Rafale is also considered by the IAF to be possibly the only plane in the sweepstakes with a focused use of composites for stealth and reduced RCS. The Rafale will also come with new, high-capability variants of MBDA missiles that the IAF has operated for decades, and places a lot of value on. Former Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash, as FOC-in-C Western Naval Command, flew the Rafale during an official visit to Paris. A few other senior officers of the IAF have also had a chance to spin up in the otherwise reclusive Rafale. The sense that Dassault isn't displaying its wares like the other five contenders are, is something that has somehow been looked at as "proper" by some in the Defence Ministry. This is, after all, a serious defence procurement, some say -- "there's no need for so much song and dance at Aero India every year". The Rafale is the only aircraft in the sweepstakes that comes with an explicitly stated nuclear delivery capability. None of the others mentioned it. And the reason I mention this is that some very senior officers in the air force, are wondering why. The Rafale is also among the least familiar of the six jets, at least in the Indian media, simply because Dassault has stayed well away from courting publicity -- this is also looked upon by the IAF/MoD as being representative of a deeper, more valuable quality during a procurement process: discretion. Finally, defence deals with France have always been expensive, but always been excellent professional and operational experiences for the Indian forces. From the Mirages to Alouettes to the Mysteres. No spares problems. No nonsense. The French could also leverage significant political power to push India as the prestigious launch customer of the Rafale, though not quite like the Jaguar's initial years were. A maximum 11 Gs in critical manoeuvers doesn't hurt either.

WEAKNESSES

The albatross around the Rafale remains its relatively unproven stature, and of course, the fact that it hasn't ever been exported. As one of the most expensive (flyaway cost) aircraft in the sweepstakes, it also comes with possibly the largest price-tag in terms of total contract cost, though Dassault has made strenuous efforts to convey to the IAF that its use of Dassault aircraft over time, particularly the Mirage, will significantly erode the total commitment necessary in terms of new infrastructure. Obviously, the IAF isn't buying this -- they're treating the Rafale as any new aircraft type. There are almost no articulated weaknesses in specifications, though the IAF is anxious about an aircraft that has been fielded for a lot of competitions unsuccessfully. Finally, the government has recently awarded France with the huge Scorpene deal. Awarding the MMRCA to France would be politically too much for too little. The leadership of Nicolas Sarkozy doesn't half do what Jacques Chirac's did in its time.

Top Photo Copyright US Navy
Other Photos Copyright Dassault Aviation
Last Photo by Shiv Aroor

Tomorrow: Part 5 - The American Turbo Bug

See Also:
Part 1 - The Super Viper
Part 2 - The Swedish Underdog
Part 3 - The Future Fulcrum

42 comments :

Anonymous said...

rafale isn't worthy for its price
aircraft is certified to carry only 6 230kg LGB thats all or two storm shadow at a time with fuel tanks or 6 mica missiles with fuel tanks

most of the payload goes for external fuel tank and actual combat payload(means PGM,MISSILES)


and how reliable is this jet just because of being french as if it will never crash

Anonymous said...

.We will have the License production for the RD-33 Engine and the same Engine is also in the PAF JF-17 thunder aircraft. China may procure more advance RD-33 MK engines from the Russia any time and the same engine can be integrated in JF-17 aircraft in the near future.
------------------------------
so what if pakis procure rd33 engine
what it has to do with mig35 ,everyone else also selling to pakis

french also want to sell MICA for jf17 and US selling f16

Anonymous said...

Dassault Rafale is 4.5 generation fighter aircraft.

Biggest problem with the Rafale fighter is the very high cost tag by the Dassault. Cost of Rafale is very high compare to any other aircraft in the MMRCA project.

According to the reports, UAE will be the first export country for Rafale jets. UAE is close to purchase 60 Dassult RAFALE with a cost of around 10 billion Euro.

With the same cost if u compare for Indian RAFALE then 126 aircraft will cost around 20 billion Euro,approx (which is around Rs 1,35,000 crore, approx).

Are you sure India ready to spend Rs 1,35,000 crore for 4.5 generation fighter and that too only for 126 fighter jets.

Mihir said...

Dassault isn't displaying its wares like the other five contenders are, is something that has somehow been looked at as "proper" by some in the Defence Ministry. This is, after all, a serious defence procurement, some say -- "there's no need for so much song and dance at Aero India every year". The Rafale is the only aircraft in the sweepstakes that comes with an explicitly stated nuclear delivery capability. None of the others mentioned it.

These are very valid points, and I find it surprising that the Indian and foreign media hasn't mentioned them yet... even in passing.

This is an excellent series Shiv! Great work!

Anonymous said...

Nice work shiv
i'd like to know your choice which aircraft do you prefer most?

Anonymous said...

Who cares if it costs a lot! India can obviously afford it if it is in the competition. You are getting a quality aircraft. French tech costs a lot but it is some of the best in the world. Spectra suite is second only to the Raptors/F-35's EW suite.

Anonymous said...

shiv, could you give us the price comparison for all the 5 MRCA aircrafts.

Anonymous said...

Rafale is too expensive. Even Dassault have given up, they are totally focussed on making Falcon series of bizjets. Mr. Dassault himself admitted that this is where their future lies, not in the 'tempramental' fighter aircraft deals.

Gripen-NG MKI still looks like the best bang/buck deal.

Anonymous said...

With babus in control rafale would not be selected, as French have criminalized giving comissions to procure deals(read about the deal made by pakis with french for their subs)

As far as our babu goes, the only good thing is the one that gives him fat commission.

Divine said...

It is down to the Eurofighter and the F-18.

Finally Eurofighter will win.

ABHINABA said...

A2G capability of Rafale jet is questionable,besides it's A2A Mica missile's range is ridiculously short for future's long range BVRM age.
If we compare F-18E/F Super Hornet & Rafale with price-tag , the 1st one is the winner.I don't think infrastructure development is a serious issue for MMRCA contest. So, Rafale plays only a lost match.

NJS said...

It seems to have many positive things like nuclear delivery capable,france is good support provider , Transfer of technology will not be problem . the negative things are high pricing , doubtful of longer range air to air missiles near to (160 - 175 kms range )what india currently need .
MR.Shiv if you mention the weapons of the aircraft along with advantages & disadvantages it could be useful.

Anonymous said...

Rafale will use the meteor missile which outclass and out range everything the F-18 has.
MICA + METEOR is the best A2A combo : MICA for very short range and medium range, METEOR for medium range and long range (+100 km).

There is 100% ToT for the Rafale, no doubt it is the best jet and the best offer for India.

And contrary to the Gripen mki, the Rafale is not vaporware. Rafale is in service with firm orders and the AESA is ready.

Anonymous said...

Folks -
In all this noise over MMRCA , kindly do not forget that the entire strike/interdiction /battlefield support component provided by Mig 27 and Jaguars ( almost 200 in number ) is also getting obsolete . These are unglamourous components of the Airforce ( like medium pacers )but invaluable in war So where are the replacements for these? Can Tejas provided a light attack capability and in sufficent numbers ? If not then we may have to look immediately at the attack/multirole versions of advanced trainers like M 346 , Hawk , T-50 , Mig AT and some others.
I invite comments from my friends and experts.

Anonymous said...

the FSO is a big advantage for observing and identifying air & ground targets at stand off ranges without using a hard point

Anonymous said...

"I invite comments from my friends and experts."

I am not your firnd, but I am certainly an expert. The replacement for Jaguars should be a subsonic aircraft built around a nice, economical high bypass turbofan engine.

Think an A-10, but with a single CFM engine, samller gun, better sensors and missile payload. LCA is not suited, for firstly it has a ridiculously small range. Secondly, it is built to fly supersonic, and employing it for subsonic bomb truck duties is always going to be more of a compromise than a subsonic bomb truck built for the job.

Anonymous said...

nice series

Anonymous said...

Hello Expert -

I was expecting a practical suggestion . A 10 production line has ceased and being a US item will not be available for us.Russia could have been requested for their counterpart but that too is old and Russians are no longer our Cold War friends.

So it seems we have a problem. What about the latest version of the most underrated aircraft - the Italian Brazilian AMX ??

the terminator said...

Rafale is a completely new plane but it is only in service with the French Air Force. The UAE would be the 1st foreign country to have it.

It is one of the most expensive planes for the MMRCA.Though the French have indicated a 100% TOT, in reality it may not work out in India's favour. If the whole cost for 126 planes is going to cost the Indian taxpayer a whopping US20billion, then it would be wiser not to buy the Rafales. Every forseeable upgrades would cost a bomb.

The French may have criminalized bribes to the middlemen but it is only in theory. The scorpeone sub the Malaysian Navy bought is quagmired in a US400 million scandal of kickbacks that was paid to the now Malaysian PM through a company owned by his friend and confidante, MR. Razak Baginda. This is the same man who got away scot-free in the murder of a Mongolian model named Altantuya Shaarriibu. It is widely rumoured that his acquittal was not appealed against by the prosecution on the advice of the new PM.

So bribes and kickbacks are possible even with the French.

It is even more expensive than the Eurofighter. If the Eurofighter Typhoon, comes with full TOT and assistance to productionize the Kkaveri engine, then India should seriously consider about acquiring
the Typhoon which is also a new plane compared to the SH, F16 and the Mig35.

Moreover the aircraft is in its 3rd tranche which means that it has evolved from the first unlike some of the others which are being paraded with some cosmetic changes.

The French are aslo prone to price hikes and non-delivery of components for the Scorpeones that India is trying to build at Mazagon. The promised TOT is not being delivered which is crucial to expedite the production of the subs.

Anonymous said...

shiv
can u plzz post the LCA update
and ATV launch doing the rounds

Anonymous said...

Only 3 aircraft will be the best for the Indian airforce MMRCA project after looking various pros and cons.

1st preference: SAAB – GRIPEN

2nd preference: EADS - EUROFIGHTER TYPHOON

3rd preference: DASSAULT- RAFALE

My first preference will always with the GripenIN Fighter which is highly advance, lighter, cost effective and truly Multi-Role fighter with the fifth generation design suit.This fighter has everything that IAF is looking and even beyond that. IAF cannot ignore the capability of this fighter.

Anonymous said...

To Anon@3:06 am

Who cares if it costs a lot! India can obviously afford it if it is in the competition.
----------------------------------

Be Practical man!

Rafale is in the race due to the political reasons. IAF technical evaluations committee has earlier rejected the Rafale and one of the factor was the very high cost tag by the Dassault.
Rafale join back in the race due to the Political pressure.

UAE will be the first export country for Rafale jets. UAE is close to purchase 60 Dassult RAFALE with a cost of around 10 billion Euro.

You can calculate by your own an approx cost, Dassault will charge for Indian 126 4.5 generation Jets.

Anonymous said...

"the GripenIN Fighter which is highly advance, lighter, cost effective and truly Multi-Role fighter with the fifth generation design suit"

The gripen is a 4.5 generation fighter, not a 5 generation.
The new gripen is an evolution of the limited gripen but it is still not in the same category as Typhoons, Rafales, Mig-35s, F-18s. And how many Gripen NGs have been bought by Sweden ? How many Gripen NGs does Sweden want to buy ? Answer is zero, the future does not look good and the aircraft is really immature.

Anonymous said...

What? ATV? who met? where met? I mean who held the meeting and where? I mean.. you can understand how excited I am.

Anonymous said...

if 40 million is price tag for each mirage2000 upgrade than just think how much rafale upgrade would cost

only mig35 or gripen seems to fit in bill of 11-12 billion dollars let alone f16,18,rafale,typhoon

Anonymous said...

India needs two MRCA competitions for 200 fighters each.
That way IAF will have
150-200 FGFA
230 Su-30 MKI
200 MRCA 1
200 MRCA 2
200 LCA MK II
by 2020.
MCA will still be in testing phase.

The current MRCA competition should be treated as MRCA 1. There is no need to target an all out multirole fighter - a jack of all trades, so to speak, instead the capabilities should be divided between MRCA 1&2.

This is the force structure that IAF will need to target. If India still remains stuck on 'fighting wars on two fornts' and takes only the chinese and pakistanis as adversaries, then India's had it.
By 2020 India will also have to protect its business interests in far off lands, Africa, SE Asia, CAS, overseas deployments in addition to retaining the ability to fight wars and win on two fronts.

Anonymous said...

Dude I am being practical.
The Rafale wasn't kicked out of the competition due to price, their report or whatever was missing a few things that's why. If it was price wouldn't the committee have said that. Also the reason UAE purchase cost is so high is because they are procuring 60 Rafales from France directly. The engines on the UAE Rafale are more powerful than what currently is on the Rafale. They are paying for the development costs of the engine! They want their Rafales to have the Meteor earlier than France planned. This costs extra which contributes to the 10Billion euros for 60 Rafales. India's Rafales are going to be made in India except the first squadron. So production costs would be lower,hopefully.
Hopefully that was enough practicality for you.

NJS said...

To, Anonym,
Rafale which can carry METEOR AAM is just 100+ kms only , now pakistan itself have AIM 120 which has 105 kms range in AAM , China has 130 to 175 kms range AAM( longer range R-27 M1) .

If india got the meteor with rafale / Eurofighter their will be no use of buying , we can only cope with srilanka & bangladesh,some jets along with Latest Su 30 mki and Su 35 in russia has the capable to fire R-27 M1 ( AESA radar is needed for BVR capable ).

Specifications
R-27R/AA-10A
Length 4.08m
Diameter 0.23m
Wingspan 0.77m
Launch Weight 253kg
Guidance Semi-active radar
Range 50~80km
Speed Mach 2.5~4.5
Warhead Expanding rod
Warhead Weight 39kg HE fragmentation

R-27T/AA-10B
Length 3.79m
Diameter 0.23m
Wingspan 0.77m
Launch Weight 254kg
Guidance Infrared
Range 45~70km
Speed Mach 2.5~4.5
Warhead Expanding rod
Warhead Weight 39kg HE fragmentation

R-27AE/AA-10E
Length 4.78m
Diameter 0.26m
Wingspan 0.80m
Launch Weight 350kg
Guidance Active radar
Range 60~130km
Speed Mach 2.5~4.5
Warhead Expanding rod
Warhead Weight 39kg HE fragmentation


Atleast to have edge with Pakistan's jets we need minimum 130 kms AAM missiles this could be fixed in MIG-35 .

anthony said...

And India will be the second Rafale operator outside France.

That is, if the IAF brass select the Rafale as their multi-role fighter.

Anonymous said...

To Anon@7:24 PM

I have never said Gripen NG as Fifth generation aircraft but its design made for fifth generation technology. The Gripen IN is custom built for India and is the only of the contenders that has a 5th generation avionics design.

There will always a difference between single engine and twin engine aircraft and its category.

SAAB is not marketing Gripen fighter but Gripen is marketing by Gripen Int'l, a JV between BAE Systems and SAAB. Just don’t look what is there in the picture, try to see the content of the actual capabilities of the Gripen IN given by the SAAB int’l to the IAF. Gripen NG fighter has everything that IAF asked in the RFP and even beyond that.
Gripen NG, satisfies all IAF requirements.
Gripen is highly Advance and true Multi-role fighter aircraft.

Anonymous said...

The Rafale wasn't kicked out of the competition due to price, their report or whatever was missing a few things that's why.

-----------------------------------

Neither you nor I know the actual reason why Rafale was earlier out. I mentioned one of the reasons was “cost factor “ because it was in the Electronic media that stated that one of the reason being the “very high cost tag by Dassault”.

This costs extra which contributes to the 10Billion euros for 60 Rafales. India's Rafales are going to be made in India except the first squadron. So production costs would be lower,hopefully.

-------------------------------

So what’s your calculation about the License production cost of Rafale buit in India??

Anonymous said...

I have no idea what the Production costs of the Rafale in India would be but they would be cheaper than in France. Also UAE's requirement of the newer Sncemca Engine, Earlier Meteor Integration, and more advanced ECM probably account for about 3 billion US dollars. So take that into account 10 billion Euros- 3 billion US and its not a bad deal that the UAE is getting. Their Rafales will be pretty badass

Anonymous said...

NJS wrote : "METEOR AAM is just 100+ kms only , now pakistan itself have AIM 120 which has 105 kms range in AAM , China has 130 to 175 kms range AAM( longer range R-27 M1)"

Only ?
The range given for the METEOR missile is the "lower bracket" range (the maximum range has never been disclosed yet) whereas the range given for American and Russian missiles is the maximum & optimistic range. And I highly doubt that the technology on Chinese missiles is on par with the technology and seeker found on the METEOR.

The METEOR is a game changer, it belongs to a new generation of BVRAAM propelled by a ramjet instead of solid propellant, this gives the missile a much greater N.E.Z. (No Escape Zone) compared to traditional missiles. It also flies faster than mach 4, which means that it will reach its targets much faster than other missiles : Pakistani and Chinese planes wouldn't even have time to react if they were targeted by a METEOR missile.

" now pakistan itself have AIM 120 which has 105 kms range in AAM , China has 130 to 175 kms range AAM( longer range R-27 M1)

If india got the meteor with rafale / Eurofighter their will be no use of buying , we can only cope with srilanka & bangladesh"

So you are implying that today, India cannot cope with the Pakistani or Chinese airforce ? Or Sri Lanka, or Bangladesh ?

Anonymous said...

really man what's wrong with njs.

Anonymous said...

Question: Who is UAE buying these weapons for? They hardly have any known threats/enemies in the Middle East.
F-16 Block 60 followed by advanced Rafales. Daal mein kuch kaala hai - This looks more like acquisitions for the PAF. One can never discount the fact that many retired PAF pilots settle down in the UAE. From India's underworld to ISI to Pukistani's settling down in UAE sounds too good to be true. And in a conflict, UAE will certainly give away its resources to the Pukes to fight Kuffars. Interesting times to look forward to. We need the LCA asap. Considering the number of sorties and flight tests going on in Bangalore, looks like HAL has finally got its act together. Lets wait and hope for the best!
Aside, there were rumors abound that it was Puki pilots flying the UAE Block-60 F-16's at Aero India 2009. Don't know how far its true...someone with insider gyan kindly put these rattled nerves to rest.

Anonymous said...

No Muslim country would give their fighters to Pakistan if it got in a war with India. That's like saying Russia would supply Mig-31's and Su-34's. I won't happen.

The main threat in the middle east is Iran and before the US invasion- Iraq was a threat (iraq/iran war, reason of first gulf war). The UAE simply wants to maintain a qualitative edge over everyone else. they have 60 high end planes right now with the Block 60 and soon will have another 60 with the Rafale. Its not a huge military force.

Mihir said...

NJS>> Rafale which can carry METEOR AAM is just 100+ kms only , now pakistan itself have AIM 120 which has 105 kms range in AAM , China has 130 to 175 kms range AAM( longer range R-27 M1) .

If india got the meteor with rafale / Eurofighter their will be no use of buying , we can only cope with srilanka & bangladesh,some jets along with Latest Su 30 mki and Su 35 in russia has the capable to fire R-27 M1 ( AESA radar is needed for BVR capable ).


Sure, if our planes are just going to hover in the air at equal altitudes and let loose a volley of missiles at each other. Otherwise, it all depends on situational awareness, kinetics, and several other factors. So much so that a measly difference of 5km in the stated range of a BVR missile does not affect the outcome of an engagement. It certainly won't bring doomsday upon the IAF.

Incidentally, are you aware that the R-27AE never achieved IOC is not being inducted by any air force? We might as well compare the range of the Python-5 with that of a hypothetical air to air variant of the hypersonic BrahMos.

Anonymous said...

Hey shiv which plane is your favorite to win? Which one do you think is the best suited for the IAF. We never heard your own opinion on which one is the best.

Anonymous said...

How does the Rafale have unproven stature? It has done a decent amount of combat missions in Afghanistan. The only place for a plane/pilot to get actual combat experience

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous 9:53 am


I guess thats bcoz Shiv is yet to recieve his paycheck from Lockheed!! LOL! ;)

Anonymous said...

The Rafale is an industry orphan. Therefore, I hope that India selects the Rafale, so that they can continue to remain in the fighter export business.

NJS said...

Rafale is the only jets mentioned about nuclear capable/ 100 % tot with source code , others are not particularly mentioned about it.

Euro fighter seems to be better in performance , but some news says it has feebleness in ground attack / high pricing .

Gripen is much suitable in all aspects for indian conditions, but we need to consider US pressure , because many tech are from US.

F-18 & F-16 is almost similar tech , the main difference is Engine / Radar/price.

F-16 IN is customized version with Israel weapons Python 5 /Derby AAM, which seems to very best in world , Python5 BVR AAM will give real edge against china/pak jets .

F-18 has huge strength in Aesa Radar , next best to F-22's radar.

f-18 could down many jaws from air.it has short takeoff and could be used for india's Aircraft carrier also.

Mig-35 we have better chances for full tot/ support /Longer range AAM. mig35 is true multirole capable /better price.