Wednesday, September 01, 2010

MMRCA BUZZ: What Makes The IAF Nervous About The Americans

An IAF officer I spoke to six months ago to get a sense of how the Indian Air Force perceives partnerships with the United States as a potential outcome of the MMRCA competition, used a simple but strange metaphor to illustrate his opinion. Imagine India on the one side of a deep and wide ravine. Across this wide ravine is a gleaming suspension bridge. It looks great and appears superbly stable -- but in rough weather, there's every chance it will shake. In the past, when India has tried to cross this bridge, it has been forced to quickly retrace its steps midway when the bridge was buffeted by unkind winds that threatened to cast India into the ravine. So now, here's the question. Does the weather ever really change that much?

Two overwhelming notions, especially within the Indian media, over the last four years concerning the MMRCA competition, are, one, the government will choose an aircraft type based on political considerations. And two, since it does so, the Americans will win, since they offer more, on the face it, politically than any other nation. But these fall, indubitably, in the realm of government, and not the Indian Air Force. But while the IAF says it works only with determinables and not the intangibles, it obviously has concerns, many of which dwell in the realm of the political. Some of these concerns come up frequently and are well known. Others are less known and more specific. The idea of this post is to simply provide a consolidated view of perceptions of operating American aircraft.

Let's first get one thing out of the way. There are probably very few in the IAF who believe that the Americans can be beaten on potential technology. Notwithstanding arguments that the two American platforms on offer to India are essentially modernised legacy fighters with little or no modernisation latitude, there is a keen sense that the Americans control what is undeniably among the best aerospace technology in the world. The quality and temperament of sharing is a different matter, and I'll touch upon that later.

The chief cause of nervousness in the IAF regarding any potential hardware from the US is, quite clearly, the potential attendant erosion of autonomy. Nothing in the last six years has changed that perception. The IAF believes the Indian government is rightly skeptical about the CISMOA and BECA agreements, but the end-user verification pact (EUVA) that the two countries finally entered into (even with India's counterdraft accepted) is not something that went down well with the IAF. Crucially, there is a general sense that autonomy will potentially be affected not just as far as operations are concerned, but in other areas as well -- logistics, planning, profiling etc. Here's something even more interesting: One officer suggests that the use of the MMRCA aircraft as strategic deterrent platforms (i.e. nuclear delivery aircraft) is a grey area that could prove almost certainly problematic when dealing with the Americans, or at least more problematic with the Americans than the others. It so happens that the only country that has never questioned India's strategic positioning of its aircraft, are the French (though they have different, equally serious problems). "India may not be Turkey, Egypt of Pakistan, but if you look at any country that operates American aircraft, there has been a period -- sometimes prolonged -- of trouble," says the officer quoted above, adding, "This is something a country like Pakistan can afford, since it has already pledged its strategic future to one nation. But can we?" The fear that the autonomy overhang could affect operational planning is a very real one. A section of the IAF believes South Block is way too hardnosed to buckle to a bad deal -- there's another that believes reluctance to sign the EUVA was merely diplomatic grandstanding that conveniently harnessed the IAF's apprehensions -- and, therefore, that there is every chance the IAF will be saddled with jets it cannot fully use.

A related aspect is operational flexibility. During Kargil, the IAF reportedly did things to some of its Mirage-2000s that would have amounted to serious violations of the Indian government's contract with Dassault. It is understood, but not confirmed, that the French government was quietly engaged after the war and the two sides were able to agree that it was not a problem, and that no penalties would be slapped on the Indian government for what were, in reality, war exegencies, even though it was clear that there had been serious breaches of the technology agreement. The use of US aircraft would be far more potentially restricted and regulated by complex rules, legalese and guidelines. It's not that the IAF isn't used to this sort of thing. It's just that there's likely to be exponentially more to pore over before scrambling an American jet from an Indian base. Here's another point: Buying and operating US aircraft, some in the IAF believe, would "completely subvert" one of the most deeply entrenched "ways" of doing things in India -- using a generous dose of improvisation. "Will the American be fanatically remote controlling with India as well? It is hard to say," says the officer quoted above.

Next, of course, trust. Reliability and trust are major issues, and this has little do with any sort of hangover of the 1998 post-Shakti sanctions. An influential quarter in the IAF feels the US has not qualitatively demonstrated that it is a sincere partner, especially when it comes to India's indigenous programmes. In 1998, US sanctions dealt a death blow, or nearly so, to several Indian weapon and weapon platform programmes, including the country's missile programme, light combat aircraft, NCW technologies and other critical programmes. But little has actually changed. While the US is happy to sell India billions of dollars worth of hardware, it is suspiciously and conspicuously unreliable even now when it comes to indigenous programmes. For instance, the IAF is still wondering why the US government didn't allow Boeing to provide a technological and flight test consultancy to the Tejas programme. Recently, it was revealed that Lockheed-Martin was unable to obtain approvals from the US government to consult for the Naval Tejas programme (both contracts went by default to EADS). The point is, the consultancies were "small-fry contracts that held nothing of advantage to either of the American companies or the government," says a Group Captain. He adds, "Such denials are taken very seriously. What could the possible reason be for the US government to deny two small consultancies? It has not been reported much, so it is forgotten. For the service, it was a jolt. The implications are plain for anyone to deduce." He's right. For all the big-sounding partnership rhetoric that India has gotten used to being bombarded with from Washington, it's the little things that offer a different, decidedly worrying picture for the IAF. Simply put, the perception appears to be this in some quarters -- the Pentagon wants to sell you a lot of souped up Cold War era fighter planes, but doesn't want to tell you how to fine-tune carrier-safe landing gear assemblies. It doesn't want to tell you how to speed up flight trials. It refuses to tell you how to expand the operational envelope of your own in-development fighter platform. The two Tejas consultancy programmes are, incidentally, only two among at least a dozen similar contracts that the US has "won", but failed to act upon as a result of seeming Pentagon/State Department sensitivities. Result: perceptions that the US wants to sell India weapons, and has little interest in any real partnerships that could potentially edge out the need to buy those or similar weapons at a later stage as well.

A dramatic and interesting perception in a certain section of the IAF is that the F-16 Block 60 and F/A-18E/F are excellent fighter platforms, but that it is unlikely that the US will be either a willing or reliable partner as far as ensuring that these aircraft are on the cutting edge throughout their life of 40 years or more. The US government has, on behalf of the plane makers, assured the Indian government -- and will drive it home many more times -- that the future of these two platforms is completely safe. Still, the sense that you won't get the best they have is nowhere more overpowering than it is with the Americans.

Some of these concerns have a greater emphasis than others in ongoing dialogue between the IAF and the MoD, but all figure at various levels without exception. It must be said that there is, at the same time, a powerful section within the IAF -- with compelling arguments of its own on all the concerns listed above -- that the only way the IAF can make its next aerospace leap, is with technology from the United States, and that any other, would be a compromise on such a valuable opportunity to shift away from rusty strategic predilections of the past.



saptarshi dasgupta said...

mmrca,saga continues,dilemma,tension,i can really feal for the IAF,but as a patriotic indian, i would vouch for rafale or typhoon,,go manmohan singh, get the best for the country, dont give in to UNCLE'S PRESSURE

saptarshi dasgupta said...

mmrca,saga continues,dilemma,tension,i can really feal for the IAF,but as a patriotic indian, i would vouch for rafale or typhoon,,go manmohan singh, get the best for the country, dont give in to UNCLE'S PRESSURE

Anonymous said...

unfortunately everyone does business with india..but dirty business...and swindles india. india is all alone :( no one help her like they did to china and the pakis. its sad that they are with the evil not with the good.

Rahul said...

@Shiv, You said, "It so happens that the only country that has never questioned India's strategic positioning of its aircraft, are the French (though they have different, equally serious problems)".

1. Can you let us know what are the serious problems with the French? Is it the cost of their products.

2. Why did you leave Russia out, do they have problems with India's strategic positioning of its aircraft?

-- Rahul.

Anonymous said...

But with all the twist and turns this could be the best story for a Bollywood blockbuster movie.

Well written Shiv, especially to know the importance IAF given to consultancy for LCA. It shows that IAF is looking at partnership and not just a buyer-seller relation

ankur said...

nice writing shiv sir.i want to make some points here:
1>u are right when u say that US has the one the best aerospace tech. but that doesn't count if there is no reliabilty with providing logistics support and spare parts and most importantly know -how that can be used in our indegineous programmes.
2>i wonder why LCA cannot be evolved as a MRCA when it has the potential to evolve further.with so much gone into its development yet i find in defense magazines putting LCA at the lower end spectrum of force structure.can u give us some details regarding this shiv sir

Anonymous said...

"During Kargil, the IAF reportedly did things to some of its Mirage-2000s that would have amounted to serious violations of the Indian government's contract with Dassault."

Reportedly ? I missed that ! Could you elaborate please ?

thanks !

see ya

Anonymous said...

Sorry to sling mud here, but isn't our PM US educated ??? I am sure he will definitely give this MMRCA contract to the USA, to appease Obama during his India visit. Its a done deal, since Obama seems so confident of "Sealing a Major Deal" from India!

Anonymous said...

Technology is great only if u can use it.

Mr. Ra said...

Very good article. Uncle remains the same and unchanged under some pretext or the other i.e. a Step-Uncle.

Big, long cycled and critical deals with Step-Uncle can be signed only after decades of mutual confidence building and assurances in a different world, i.e. when there will be no more wars and when all the weapons have been re-molded in to the form of peaceful machines.

Spirit of Exuberance said...

US aircrafts are very capable platforms. But look at what is happening to them. The F-16`s are finding new role into unmanned combat aircrafts/ target drones. And the future of F-18`s is also questionable once the lightening shows its spark, it will be so rapidly inducted that no one will get hint where the Super Bugs have disappeared.
Coming to French, show them your money and get what you want, indeed very good aircraft and future growth prospects, but they have got assurance from Oil laden Sheikhs for developing next generation version and will be more inclined towards them instead of “Our interest”. It is also known that they never question the use of hardware but object on Indian modifications of their platform [As reported by Mr. Aroor].
Russians have learnt how to squeeze our balls for more money. But we can negotiate very deep License for technology [It is different how our negotiators surrender]. But again we are offered Jugad platform.
Typhoon on the other hand can be nice for few years or a decade, but its developers don’t want to keep them for too long since they are negotiating for next generation American lightening. But expertise gain for our country will be maximum since these [Euro Consortium] countries will use “Our” lines as cheap manufacturing lines to earn more profits. But it’s a win-win for India.
Swedish super plane will definitely kill interest of Uniform for HFXXMk2 [The Tejas].
All and all we must work more for Indian technologies and deliver a platform that will Kick Ass of trouble makers inside or outside our boundaries.
Support Hindustan Fighter, AURA, Astra, Kaveri, etc.

Jith said...


Anonymous said...

That's a fact, when you buy american you give your sovereignty to uncle Sam. The american government wants to be able to control India nothing else

Anonymous said...

See what they (US) did to six Seaking helicopters which were grounded for lack of spares!

How can you trust these Pak freindly nation, who has given away 8 frigates to Pakistani navy for FREE. But the strory not only ends here, they will be fully refurbished in the USA and delivered to Pakistan without (Pak) paying a single dime.......Thats billion dollars worth bonus for Pakistan which also killed 6 US citizens in 26-11 in Mumbai.

According to his statement, the spokesman says that the United States will not only hand over the ship, but will also refurbish the vessel, provide ammunition and train the ship's crew.

Anonymous said...

Nice writing Shiv!!!.. Why can't we make our medias to get into this and to make valid points about American idealogy?? Like they do a debate everyday hot topics in all new channels.. That may have an effect.

Heberian aka K-LT said...

1) The Japanese wanted the F22 Raptor, but got none. That despite excellent relations, and the obvious advantage of having some F22's near China... and the fact that the Japanese never have reverese engineered and sold American technology to any other country for profit or influence.

2) The Israelis have been denied permision to fix their own avionics/ weapon systems/ modifications on the F 35 ( Israeli jugaad)... despite being extremely close to America at least during Republican administrations.

So neophytes ( in the calculus of strategic alliances [of benefit to the USA's geopolitical objectives at least] )like India cannot expect all the freedom we want, should we choose to buy US hardware. There will always be strings attached to US hardware... those strings can and will be pulled very hard should the US feels the need to do so.

True that a section our IAF wants American AESA's and would love to move to the next level in having those proven capabilities. But, hopefully, Antony and Dr. Singh will wonder the use of giving an advanced fishing kit to a fisherman, with the tackle in another man's hand.. Do we really gain that much in geopolitical objectives, say like a veto wielding membership of the UN security council... if we go with American hardware. I would think not.

IM not so HO, shode of the AESA's, the American hardware is vaguely reminiscent of the F20 Tigershark offer to India back in the '90s. Well, maybe not quite so bad :) but then again..

The Rafale is cool and so is the Typhoon.

The Rafale was designed for a strategic deterrent role ("omnirole") and the Typhoon can very easily take on that role. The question between these should, hopefully, boil down to costs and technology transfer/support. A larger section of IAF would like to choose between these is what I deduce.

The Gripen is an amazing platform for the cost. But, it is essentially a "super Tejas". Is that by itself bad? Not really, but then, in terms of technology and abilities, there are no proven quantum leaps...

Surely South Block will surprise all of us pleasantly.....

On a tangent, let's take a look at some of the planes from a different angle, just for "gup shup" sake:

1) F18's - Malaysia has F 18's, do you think PAF pilots dont get to fly them?
2) Typhoons - The Saudi AF has them. Do Pakistani pilots not fly for the Saudi Airforce and thus get exposure to these?
3) Rafale - Despite the much touted "Emiratisation" , the UAE Airforce have quite a few Pakistani flyboys there too...

Not that any of this matters...

Heberian aka K-LT said...

To anonymous @ 1:02 pm

If you were to buy a used car, wont you do everything including getting your favorite mechanic and uncle to check the car before you buy it?

So, when we purchased the USS Trenton, should'nt we have checked the hardware we were getting first?

Besides, by your yardstick, our friendship with Iran should stop the US from even offering to sell us those droolworthy AESA equipped fighters..

Just wondering :)

Mr. Ra, sir( or madam), its not step uncle shunkle. Its realpolitik.

And we should start taking a few pages out of our "Arthashastra", and a few pages out our neighbour's "Art of Wa"r and a few more pages out of our neighbour's " The Romance of the Three Kingdom's" before we dream of altruism from any country. Only we could have stuck on to "this will make me a great statesman" concepts like NAM and Hindi Chini-bhai bhai, whilst getting our backyard stolen.

Its good if we can take stock of what mettle we lack, and then pragmatically and selfishly do what good for our nation. Like our neighbour Zhonguo does for its interests for example.

What we can use is a healthy dose of pragmatism and less empty rhetoric.

No tax on hoping for change in the national psyche I say..

Heberian aka K-LT said...

To Anonymous @ 4.08 am:

Unless he secretly took night classes, Dr. Singh's education was restricted to India and the UK. Even his honorary degree was from Canada.

So,tragically, he can't "APEASE" President Obama due to the pressures imposed by his "secret education"!!

Oh, and by the way, since President Obama studied for some time in Indonesia, he was last heard talking about giving the Indonesian Navy the USS Ohio with its 156 Tomahawks since the SLBMs were removed..

What tripe old boy (or girl)!!!

Anonymous said...

Shiv, your article was balanced and objective. Kudos to you!
My take:
Of all the countries offering their aircraft, the US and Sweden are the only ones that seem to maintain and follow "principles" in their foreign policy. The others, not so much. It is better to trust someone with principles than someone who will give you anything for a few bucks more. Of these two, Sweden lacks political clout to help India on the world stage whereas the US does not. American protection mechanisms are meant to ensure that the writ of a democratically elected senate is not overrun by irresponsible foreign states. The US's actions as far as technical consulting for India's projects is concerned is driven by a need to protect their economic interests and future markets for their aircraft, which any country would do. The EADS offered consultancy services, because the Tejas is not in the same weight and performance class as their main bread winner, the Typhoon. Ofcourse, it also goes without saying that American technology is superior if not equal to anything on offer from the other vendors. Buying American planes will in turn serve as a buy-in for India into future projects and collaborations with US companies. All said and done, instead of looking at this as a challenge, India should use this as an opportunity to widen and strengthen strategic cooperation with the United States. When there is a lot of synergy between the people of the two countries, the politics will eventually fall in line. And ofcourse, it is time for India to stop looking at everything through the Pakistan lens and start being a more mature nation that is confident and not scared of entering into partnerships with a superpower like the United States. It will be the biggest boost for the poor and middle class Indians if India were to have a stable strategic and development partner like the US. Otherwise, our economic growth is bound to be less secure and more susceptible to the whims of dictators and fascist regimes that are near and far. America by being a strategic partner will effectively provide an economic umbrella under which India and Indians can progress unfettered.

ivan said...

I better warned of the future if the contract goes in to the Amerivans hands , they dont have any mercy on us. If we buy their planes we will have to dance in their way, and if we go against them then they will sanction all the technologies which India bought from them, Lets not be politics if we are buying something good for our country. Buy either Typhoon or Rafales , because these are the best what IAF recommends. Go for the best, but dont buy any fighter's from U.S, because fighter's are frontline aircraft and our country needs desperately, because we are losing number of squadrons

Anonymous said...

Everyone has decided on French,Euro or US based in some way on political patronising. I would suggest IAF take a hard look at the Gripen. Why?. Compared to our northern "Friend" Indian Army is pretty much outgunned, outmanned and definitely less mobile in the north-east. From history they also know our "friend" does not do things in half measures.For e.g. if they launch a pre-emptive strike and disable the runways, how will our state of the art sukhois stationed there take off?. We know the gripen can operate on roads which would be a huge advantage in such a scenario[use of forward landing bases?]. Another point, the similarity betweeen gripen and tejas is actually an advantage. This can be used to increase the pace of our own indigenous programme by studying the import.

Heberian aka K-LT said...

To anonymous @ 3.30 pm

I am a big fan of American know-how, education, McDonalds and values et al, and have close friends who are American. I love the locavore traditions in many places in the US and love briskets eaten best in Texas. All said, I, like many Indians, love America and the opportunities it offers the common man.

That said, I find your comment not exactly objective, and slightly patronizing.

1) "Principles" you say. Please elaborate on that. What are the principles we are talking about here, specifically with reference to the US?

When I look at the current administrations foreign policy, all I see is grandstanding and pushing old friends in hopes of "Statesman glory". I wonder what Netanyahu felt when he was left in favor of dinner with family.. Or how the Japanese felt in the initial months of President Obama's G2 aspirations. Or why even Mrs. Clinton of Punjab fame was not allowed to visit India when she came as close as Indonesia and China...

So, one cant help wonder about how "new friends" may yet be treated.

2) What help on the world stage will India get? The Nuclear agreement was President Bush's legacy; his Nixon/China moment. And despite the influence of the Cheney+Rumsfeld cabal, Indians still miss President Bush.

3) So, is Tejas in the same performance & weight class as the F 18 or even the F 16?

4) American protection mechanisms : I quote you "American protection mechanisms are meant to ensure that the writ of a democratically elected senate is not overrun by irresponsible foreign states" unquote.

=> So, India is being equated with countries like Pakistan, who not only was caught red handed on nuclear proliferation grounds, but also let their true best and most dependable friend have a good look at the earlier F16s and the P3's and Saab Eyrie....

And if India is not being blanketed under "..irresponsibl foriegn states.", then should the same rules apply?

Please rest assured that almost no one in India looks at anything through the Pakistan lens anymore. Except fear of rogue nukes. There are bigger threats around the corner... bigger, more pragmatic and very focussed threats.

You may want to understand that India looks up to the US as what a democracy can be, not as a competitor, but as a nation to emulate. But, the US also needs to realise that in the new century, they need new friends to deal with new threat preceptions... and that means looking at the concerns of the new friends thru differnt angles...

The last thing we will do is to give your technology away to you biggest competitor...

Anonymous said...

"During Kargil, the IAF reportedly did things to some of its Mirage-2000s that would have amounted to serious violations of the Indian government's contract with Dassault. "

I think the following is the reason:

During Kargil war, IAF found that helicopters were of not much use. So they decided to deploy Mirage 2000, which comes with Thomson manufactured laser guided bombs. Though these bombs are very accurate, it is very expensive too. After 1998 Nuclear test, India was under sanction and couldn't get the necessary components to use these LGBs. So DRDO/IAF guys made the necessary components themselves and put in Mirage 2000 to use LGBs.

IAF also 're-manufactured' certain bombs which were not intended for Mirage 2000. This was against the agreement signed between two countries.

Anyway, these procedures took a lot of time. That's the reason the Kargil war went over almost 3 months. Moreover, Indian defense force couldn't estimate how many stinger missiles Pak force had and IAF/IA were not taking any chances with helicopters. So IAF modified the Mirage 2000, an air defense fighter to ground attack.

Nevertheless, IAF did a great job, even though they took time. They learned a lot of things within a short span. It was a marvelous sight to see when each person of IAF involved in thinking, planning, experimenting, manufacturing, executing, etc. In fact, IAF/DRDO made weapons were more accurate than the similar kind of weapons from some of the western countries.

The good lesson from India is, when something is imposed on India, India does very well (not its political leaders). Kargil war was also a great experience for many IAF officers. However, Indian Army underestimated the power and number of enemy. May be they were thinking that, the attackers were just a bunch of terrorists. Ultimately, those attackers were found be from Pakistan army, equipped with sophisticated weapons. It was estimated that, around 100 SAM were fired by Pakistan force. It was also estimated that around 5000 Pakistani military and terrorists were involved in this plan. If I were a software engineer, I would have made a few video games with Kargil war as subject.

Finally, more than anything, the courage and fighting spirit of Indian soldiers who fought Kargil war, especially the Indian Army, must be lauded. Many fought knowing that they will not come back alive. They were in the direct firepower of Pak army, but still they fought a bloody battle and won. I salute the great warriors of India!!!

ankur said...

@anon @4:44pm: 'Compared to our northern "Friend" Indian Army is pretty much outgunned, outmanned and definitely less mobile in the north-east. From history they also know our "friend" does not do things in half measures.For e.g. if they launch a pre-emptive strike and disable the runways, how will our state of the art sukhois stationed there take off?. " some clarifiaction regarding this part of ur comment:

1>our indian army is not outgunned and outmanned .we have the capability to counter any chinese aggression.raising of 40,000 additional troops,basing of su-30 and akash only adds to that cpability.i think we have around 120,000 troops in the region and acting as a defender we can repulse the chinese attack.
2>reagrding ur comment on inability of su-30 to fly on bombed run-ways let me tell some antidot to the problem:
a>generally the airfields are "very' dispersed in the sense to provide max immunioty from ballistic missile attacks or any kind of attacks.
b>the crew present at the airfield are well tarined in rerpairing the damaged airfield.
c>hardened shelters etc.
u know i read somewhere that it requires 2 su-30 to damage critical bridges in tibet biuld by chinese.
coming to the gripen thing,since LCA is a platform that cn be evolved further that means we should always go for a higher standard aircraft,i mean higher class and that would be eurofighter.u can see urself in any site the comparison b/n eurofighter and rafale be it thrust to weight ratio,range,payload,agility etc ,euorfighter is the clear winner here.

Mr. Ra said...

If India wants only good relations with America, then they should purchase enough of competitive Industrial items and machines from them.

However in the military matters, if one does not believe upon his fastest friends like Britain and Israel, then how can he be made to believe upon a third world non aligned nation perceived to be closer to the USSR during the yesteryears.

rajiv said...

Certainly a very disturbing piece. IAF certainly does't want any thing American. But it does seem things are going the American way. I just don't understand what have Americans promised the Kangrass behind closed door that they are so into the Americans.
It seems even the Gods would not be able to save my beloved mother land.

Heberian aka K-LT said...

To anonymous @ 9:11


Anonymous said...

The twist at the last is very disturbing if such jokes are being used to convince us.

Kunal said...

EUMA, LSA, CISMOA, BECA, etc. Is India getting a free dole from the US? Or, is the US subsidizing the stuff heavily? Or, is the puchase being made out of an extended interest-free credit line offered by the US? These are only a few questions in a long list. If India and the US are entering into a normal commercial transaction at market value, which apparently it is, then the transaction should be governed by market dynamics and if the same does not suit any of the parties, then so be it. US can find its own suitable market and India its own suitable supplier. I do not see why GoI can not put this simple point across. Either the GoI is hiding the truth from its public, or is too weak-kneed/chicken-hearted to face up to some home truths. As it is, GoI has already acquiesced to EUMA and signed the dotted line after some political grandstanding, as if we the people of India are blind fools and cannot see through. I am quite sure the other three will follow the same course and will be a done deal during Obama's visit.
Agreed that the American Shylock will extract its pound of flesh for the hevylifting done for the Nuclear Deal and India is not shying away from paying back for the same. But certainly, this is not the way forward. If GoI has run out of imagination and ideas as to how to tackle this pressure, we the people have umpteen viable solutions to offer so as to more than satisfy the Shylock without jeopardizing our core military operational freedom. For the sake of brevity and space, it is not possible to give the course to be adopted to counter this dilemma, here, but can be offered in a suitable forum elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

The cheapest Lifecycle cost fighter that fit the requirements will do the job.
We have other things to do with our taxes.

Anonymous said...

A very well written post Shiv, congrats on that.

I don’t understand why people on this forum equate Gripen with LCA. Is the weight the criteria or lack of AESA or what?.....can anyone explain a bit on this please. In my opinion Gripen is a proven fighter (alright, not combat proven, but so is the Raf or Typhoon which everyone one seems to love, dropping LGBs or dumb bombs in AF is not combat, harriers do a better job of that) whereas TeJus has yet to get IOC. And its biggest and only backer the IAF (other than HAL), doesn’t even want to buy it in its current avatar!!!!.

Anyway, Shiv some questions for you since you keep meeting IAF guys.

Why is the IAF worried when they failed to list their want in an orderly manner (according to your previous post on this topic)? If they can’t even do these then why worry about something which they have no control over? Don’t they any spine anymore?

Secondly, a tech leap by piggybacking on US is a very very ambiguous proposition (what does the IAF actually want from this). Is the IAF in a position to articulate anything today in this regard?
My answer is a BIG NO, look at their understanding of AURA. They release an RFI to prospective bidders without having any clue as to what the potential vendors are up to in this regard or their wish list is a flight of fancy which no one can fulfil.
Result, no one comes back to them.

2) As long as India has entities like DRDO / HAL and defence PSUs even if lord Vishvakarma were to impart tech gyan, the IAF will never ever end up with new to the world products. IAF's tumultuous relationship with DPSUs should make it perfectly clear to IAF about their capabilities.

3) Private US partnership with Indian private sector is the only way but that is totally in the realm of Revenue generation. Politics here is about lobbying by private cos. doesn’t the IAF understand anything of business at all? Tell them to look at the history of AT&T.

As someone said earlier, buy the cheapest with the least headache (SCM/Training/Maintanence). Moreover, neither China nor Pakistan has access to any of this Tech anyways. So why bother!!!!!!

Just don’t end up buying Rusky stuff

Cecx Fable & Gas

Heberian aka K-LT said...

To Anonymous @ 2:26 AM

Oh la la!
Well here comes my 25 paise.

a)The Tejas (its not TeJus) is today where the Gripen was in the '90s, when its backers were only SAAB and the farsighted Swedish government. Remember the days of F404 trials and earlier, when AESA was only the roadmap "Sometime in the future" for the Gripen?
b) No one here has said that the Gripen is bad. Far from it. All people are saying is that Gripen NG is what the Tejas can easily become as it evolves, just like the Gripen evolved. Maybe except for the ability to operate from roads and the "hot refuelling" bits.
c) GUess why various Airforces are interested in the Gripen and deploying Gripens today? Becuause of the farsighted strategy of the Swedish Government. As YOU best know, early on Sweden decided to chart its on path with the Draken and then the Viggen. When the time to phase out the Drakens and Viggens came, the USA offered Sweden the F 20 Tigershark. Sweden could also have, like some of its neighours, gotten the F16 as an easy way to a capable fighter. But no, they persisted with idea of a Gripen, and today we all can see the maturity of the platform and the NG shows us what it has evolved into.
So do spew sarcastic venom, but without forgetting history(of the Gripen for example) and understanding that India needs to make pragmatic decisions in its best interests, not based on the inputs of the marketing departments of various aerospace companies. India has to develop self-reliance, and the MMRCA deal is partly meant to enhance the effort with technology inputs.

In short, the debate here is whether we should invest in a platform, which is almost like what the natural evolution of the Tejas will become.... OR shoudl we go for other platforms that may give us a quantum leap in technical capabilities... For example, will the F404 or F 414 engines (oops sorry, the RB 12) on the Gripen also gives us proven single crystal blade tech without hidden strings..

It is very presumptive of you to think that you know more than the IAF about what it wants, and why it does what it does. The Aura RFI was exactly what it was meant to be....TESTING THE WATERS. Do you think that IAF has not been kept aware of the Neuron by Dassault+SAAB? Or that the BAE has not shared the Taranis evolution? Was it the Gripen which pitched combined operational capability along with the Neuron should the IAF want that?? The wishlist in the RFI was exactly that, a wishlist.. and designed with a purpose which was acheived. Dont take everything at face value :)

Practical Me said...

With all the speculations around the MMRCA the only real thing that has actually happened is the IAF submitting its FET report.. If we take into consideration all of Shiv's reporting on various A/c's and their origin and all the pros and cons associated with them, i feel IAF has done a brilliant job by not creating a merit list which will make the contender feel that my A/c is the best and if you want it - it has to be on my terms and conditions.. It also shows that IAF has great faith in LCA program and wants to use this deal to help us take the quantum leap in aerospace tech.. this deal is not only about replacing the migs or buying the best available aircraft its about using this apportunity to help our country make the next big step in Industrialization. IMO the approach adopted by the IAF and GoI is spot on, by not having any preferences, it indicates the vendor company that they have to offer more than just their shiny aircrafts :) and if the Americans want this deal to be theirs they gotto offer more( this approach gives us extra space for negotiation).. there are many surprises to come we just have to wait and watch!

Anonymous said...

"LCA vs Gripen":

The current LCA seems to have some issues compared to where Gripen was some 20 years ago... In particular weight and drag. Even the current Gripen C/D is using an engine that is significantly weaker than the F414 that the LCA most likely(?) will get.

When it comes to the LCA mk2 I think India has two main options:

1. "get it right" by doing substantial changes to the LCA design. If this is done the mk2 may compare to the NG, however; this will mean quite a leap from today's LCA to mk2, which implies high costs but also a long development time... The mk2 would then be a new a/c! And why develop a new 4.5 gen a/c in 2011 when the development of 5.gen fighters is about to start? Does not make sense!

2. The mk2 becomes a "natural evolution" of the LCA; however if you do this then the mk2 will not become comparable to the NG; if you're lucky you get something more similar to the current Gripen C/D...

I know it may be difficult for some Indians to accept however the LCA is simply not where it should have been.... the current version does not have the growth potential to easily become comparable to the NG.

NG: max payload 7200, F414 engine.
LCA today: max payload 4000 kg(?), F414 engine.

What engine would the mk2 need to be able to compare to the NG...? And what would the design implications be? And how long would it take? My guess would be 10 years, which would mean that mk2 would then fly in 2020.

I don't think that's realistic and therefore I don't think that the LCA will develop into something comparable to the NG.

sam said...

hi shiv,
I think MOD should distance itself from this deal and leave the onus on scientific advisory and IAF to get the deal done.It will have following effects
1. The pressure created by influencing countries(USA &....) that are pushing their non competent product by other means, would be discouraged.
2. It would not effect future deal with other countries.Also because of future lucrative deals.
3. IAF would not be able to walk away from strategic problems by accusing ministry and it would be accountable for security in the region.
In my opinion IAF should go for Rafael as
1. it is a true multirole aircraft. 2. Lesser or no threads attached.
3. Past experience with dissault was good.
4. It has latest technologies.
5. It would provide TOT and some assistance in Indian projects.
6. IAF pilots have basic knowledge about dissault aircraft's as Rafael is based on or taken out from Mirage.

freespirit71 said...

we should just choose one of the Teens. why? because perception matters the most. Just imagine a scenario of 70 vs 200 being played out in quetta. It would require an extraordinarily twisted mind to justify a favourable outcome.
The giant in the north would also be suitably shaken. It went into paroxyms about 72 F-16's being sold to an island the size of Mumbai. Just imagine 200 odd on its southern border. The biggest opposition to a closer engagement with the americans here comes from sinophiles and communists.
Just like in everything, perception matters for military minds. Sony can scream that its speakers are better than Bose, and maybe they are but if i have Bose in my house, automatically people assume that i am accoustic enabled. American technology matters because it is percieved to be the best as of now. It can be proved wrong in a future conflict but who are we to prove it wrong with some other borrowed tech?
About perception. Just imagine bangladesh had 72 F-16's as of today. in every wargame of theirs in their staff college, god alone know where it is, they will justify victories against a russian and european equipped IAF.
Finally i hope everyone reads PV's address to the US congress in 1994(?). we are here today discussing multi billion buys because of the vision of that speech. Lets not lose because of ingratitude amplified by cussedness and an arrivist attitude. we are a work in progress.

Heberian aka K-LT said...

To Anon @ 7.26 pm

I agree with your line of thought, mostly..

The LCA has significant weight/drag issues, especially with the current engine, the F 404. How MK 2 may be with an F 414 is not yet known.

I dare not presume speak for all my countrymen/women, but speaking for a certain section... and I reiterate now.. The Swedish government was farsighted and did the right things from the beginning of the Draken/ Viggen/ Gripen saga.

We, on the other hand, got a good airframe in the HF 24 Marut, with an extremely underpowered engine. And then we gave up trying to improve the skills learnt...

With that experience in mind... many of us think that though the LCA is not as perfect as the Gripen, we cannot afford to give up. We should not.

As for the Tejas and the Gripen C/D, both on F 404, here are the numbers I see:
Tejas (F 404)

Empty weight: 5,680kg
Loaded weight: 9,500 kg
Max takeoff weight: 13,500 kg
Powerplant: 1× General Electric F404-GE-IN20 turbofan
Dry thrust: 53.9 kN
Thrust with afterburner: 85 kN
Wing loading: 221.4 kg/m²
Thrust/weight: .91

Gripen C/D (RM 12/F404)

Empty weight: 5,700 kg
Loaded weight: 8,500 kg
Max takeoff weight: 14,000 kg
Powerplant: 1× Volvo Aero RM12 afterburning turbofan
Dry thrust: 54 kN
Thrust with afterburner: 80.5 kN
Wing loading: 336 kg/m²
Thrust/weight: 0.97

Whether the Tejas will become as good as the NG, with AESA and better engines, cannot be negated with todays info. To make it as good as the Gripen NG is part of what is hoped to be achieved as a benefit of the MMRCA program.

Anonymous said...

@ K LT 10:24

The last line you wrote "To make it (LCA) as good as the Gripen NG is part of what is hoped to be achieved as a benefit of the MMRCA program."

This will not happen in another 10 years atleast as Anon @ 7:26 pointed out. MoD, HAL and a host of others with interest in making money will make sure it never happens.

And as India does not have domain knowledge of making high performance AC (in private companies) in the short to medium term the IAF/ MoD will have to rely on Foreigners. The FGFA is a good bet but then again Ruskies will make sure we pay through our nose for it.

If by a miracle we find some amount of cohesion and private players can be incorporated then maybe in 30 years time India can produce a CONTEMPORARY fighter. Till then we should buy a very capable fighter like Gripen (cheap/high sortie rates/ least headache for integration with Indian Juggad ) and focus on FGFA and a true fighter programme.

But then again if pigs could fly……ahem

Cecx Fable & Gas

Kunal said...

To Anon@KLT 10:24

FGFA is not NOT an Indo-Russian joint venture. It is 100% Sukhoi venture. India will only be a pure buyer of this plane n will collaborate with the modifications for the IAF requirement as done in the case of MKI. So, basically it will be FGFA MKI.

The Indian MCA project (now AMCA) is a joint Indo-Russian(MiG) project n NOT a wholly Indian endeavor as made out to be.
Here is the Link in suuport of the above:

Heberian aka K-LT said...

To Anon @ 12.18

Yes, it may take 10, and most probably more, years to make the Tejas as good as the NG.

Now, look at some history ( Correct me if I am wrong as you obviously know more about the Swedish aerospace industry than I ):

Sweden developed the Draken and the Viggen succesfully. Decison for Draken/ Viggen replacement=1979. Developmentof Gripen starts=1982. SKIP a couple of decades. NG demo first flight= 2008

Moral of the story= Even for a nation with 2 succesful a/c designs behind them, and with full cooperation from engine makers like GE and avionic makers in Europe and the USA... it too 26 years to get to the NG.

We in India, unfortunately, have faltered in the past. But we have to stick with it, make right choices, continue developing the Tejas into a Gripen NG type of a/c. Who knows, pigs may yet fly.. :) The physics of making pigs fly is an interesting thought, but thats another thread.

Please understand clearly that I am not saying that the Gripen NG is not an excellent a/c. It is. What I am saying is that the qualitative gains in technology from a Typhoon or a Rafale, if used well, can help make the Tejas as good as a Gripen. I am just not sure that Saab can help us gain that much technology as the Lockheed Martin gentlmen altruistically pointed out some time in the near past.

To freespirit1971

Bangaldeshi staff colleges are at the Mirpur Cantt. in Dhaka. Some of our very best pilots from AFS Lohegaon have been there and have taught there :) Senior staff from the other services too.. Lets not be mean spirited and demean our smaller neighbours, that is exactly what we should avoid.

Also, teh Command and Staff College at QUetta does not underestimate India at all, and thus the reliance on the ISI brand of assymetrical warfare.

Being a Sinophile is not bad, in fact its is good. Most major senior military staff academies around the world have "The Art of War" as required reading. Its wisdom still holds good... " Know yourself, know your enemy, 100 battles 100 wins". It will be better for us when there are as many of us that can read Mandarin as there are Chinese who can read Hindi and other Indian languages :)

Just imagine the joys of trawling through Chinese defence an other blogs mate.. and to learn what they(THe Chinese public and ex-servicemen) think.

The problem with us, we are too absorbed in self importance to know ourselves well, or to know our enemeies well and to learn from them..

As for American warbirds, yes, they have the best radars beyond doubt. But what use will they be if we cant tinker with them... or dont know the underlying lines of code... and have to LM or Boeing to get kernel access to anything we may want to "jugaad"?

By these parameters alone, the AESA's and other tech with the Gripen or Typhoon or Rafale will be better. At least we may learn something and we may be able to modify stuff...

PVN was a great, and vastly underestimated man. Yes, we need to ally ourself with the Americans. But in the case of this particular deal, hopefully, we select an a/c that gives us a good deal in terms of knowledge transfers... not an a/c that ties our arm behind us.

freespirit71 said...

to heberian:
good to hear you.
I only commented about perception and how it matters.
I still stand by what i wrote. Its not just about the radars. the teens are simply better finished than the rest in every department. The jaguars in the beginning followed by the mirages showed us what it is to operate modern platforms. they were truly game changers. i sincerely believe that the teens will be today's game changers.
that is my perception and it is not binding on anyone.

ivan said...

Today American will give us their hand , Tomorrow they will give us their legs.