MMRCA Part 6 - The Typhoon Truth

The Typhoon was the last contender to throw its hat into the MMRCA ring. The Typhoon has huge strengths and huge weaknesses, even though there is a terrific amount of intrigue and interest about the airplane within the IAF. It is considered, overall, to be the most modern jet in the sweepstakes, and has a great deal of life development latitude ahead of it. The airplane comes backed by BAE Systems and EADS, two companies the Indian government has a lot of experience dealing with, though not all of these experiences have been sweet.


The Typhoon enjoys a reputation within the IAF of being possibly the most modern and advanced fourth-generation fighter jet flying today. Its multiple unofficial ground and flight demonstrations to IAF pilots have won it unofficial accolades for being a blisteringly good aircraft to fly, with a phenomenal amount of research clearly devoted to technology aimed at staving off the effects of G forces. Pilots believe the Typhoon's airframe is built with beyond visual range combat in mind, even though it demonstrates awesomely tight performance in close-combat drills. The next-generation Meteor beyond visual range air to air missile (BVRAAM) is a valuable standard on the aircraft when its ready. The Eurojet EJ200 turbofan engine's possible selection for the LCA Tejas re-engine programme could provide an enormous fillip to the Typhoon's chances in the MMRCA, considering that those engines will be built under full technology transfer separately in India by HAL. EADS/BAE/Alenia Aeronautica are understood to have provided one of the most comprehensive offset and technology transfer offers in the sweepstakes.


Like the Rafale and the Super Hornet, the Typhoon is a heavy-class twin-engined fighter, which immediately pulls the notches up on ownership cost, maintenance investments and turnaround. But the single most operational weakness (even though it may really be just perception) is that the IAF remains unconvinced of the Typhoon as a true multirole fighterplane. This may have something to do with the Eurofighter's slapdash external pod-based air-to-ground capability declaration for the Singapore Air Force fighter competition, though the IAF is itself of the opinion that the Typhoon is not a true strike fighter, built more as an air superiority and air defence platform, with an unproven, somewhat ad-hoc capability for stand-off interdiction, which is a critical, overriding operational QR in the MMRCA tender document. The stink over the Al Yamama contract with the Saudi government, and an alleged slush fund by BAE Systems for the sheikhs could prove to be a real downer for the Typhoon, especially since BAE is the counter at which the Indian government will deal if it chooses the Typhoon. The fact that the government has recently awarded BAE with the Hawk AJT deal -- despite a signficant quarter shouting out about kickbacks -- could also go against the Typhoon. The Typhoon is also weak on operational provenness, though the IAF is willing to look beyond that, considering how young the fighter is compared to some of the others.

(Series concluded)

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