Saturday, October 02, 2010

How GE's Tejas MK-II Win Affects The MMRCA. Or Doesn't.

In a little over two months from now, the Indian Ministry of Defence will approve the Indian Air Force's field trial evaluation report and begin commercial negotiations with what the IAF hopes will be a downselected list of vendors. Remember, the IAF has not explicitly indicated a downselect, leaving it to the MoD to understand this from the level of compliance index.

Now, there's an overwhelming sense that India's selection of the GE F414 engine makes things much, much clearer about the MMRCA competition, and narrows things down considerably. For clarity's sake, variants of the F414 power the Boeing F/A-18 IN Super Hornet and the next generation Saab Gripen IN, while the Eurojet EJ200 -- which lost to GE in the Tejas MK-II competition -- powers the Eurofighter Typhoon.

The logic was always compelling. A dedicated licensed engine production line in the country for the Tejas MK-II would provide robust economy of scale advantages and funnel down the contenders in the MMRCA. That's how it probably should happen, but will it? Another matter altogether. Some scenarios:

SCENARIO 1: At least six IAF officers I spoke to suggested that it would be wrong to connect the Tejas MK-II and the MMRCA on too many levels. One of them suggested that the two deals were mutually exclusive, with a sharp line dividing the two -- in other words, the decision on one had no way of influencing the other. Therefore, in this scenario, the GE F414 selection provides no tangible advantages, going forward in the MMRCA, to the F/A-18 and Gripen NG, even though those advantages would normally shout loud. When I asked an Air Marshal, formerly at Eastern Air Command HQ, how this could be justified -- considering how it goes headlong against the economies of scale notion -- he said, "You must understand that each deal is a leverage in itself. The government can choose to draw connections and give the country the most effective deal. Or it could keep everything separate and leave all options open for maximum leverage. In my understanding, the government would not hand GE an automatic victory in the MMRCA as a default result of the Tejas MK-II selection. That is not how things happen in India." The other crucial point here is: if the GE victory wasn't politically premeditated, then there exists no procedural route for the Tejas MK-II engine selection to be taken into account in a potential MMRCA downselect. In other words, if the MMRCA is sticking unflinchingly to the RFP (as the Indian Defence Minister recently stated in Washington, and reiterated yesterday by Air Marshal NAK Browne, the IAF's Western Command chief), then GE's win would/could have no direct bearing on the MMRCA downselect simply because there is no official route for it to do so. The last critical point: the F414 engine that will be built in India under tech-transfer, will be a modified engine for the Tejas. If an F414-powered airplane happens to be selected in the MMRCA, then it is likely that there will be two lines, or a fork in the main line.

SCENARIO 2: The opposite scenario. Here, the government decides that a dedicated GE F414 engine line in the country means it makes sense to narrow down the selection based on the economies of engine scale logic. In other words, you have the Gripen going against the Super Hornet in the MMRCA finals.

SUB-SCENARIO 2 (a) But there are important points to remember here to: two extravagantly different aircraft, same engine in different configurations. The US government would obviously support the F/A-18, and GE would clearly prefer the F/A-18, since it's American and a twin-engine platform, so it means double the number of engines sold by GE as compared to the number it would sell if India chose the Gripen. In this scenario, the GE F414 economies of scale and political considerations would push the F/A-18 to the top of the list.

SUB-SCENARIO 2 (b) In this scenario, the government decides it already has economies of scale, and pushes the Gripen forward as a perceived compromise: the cheaper aircraft, with American engine and weapons. The US cannot exercise export licensing controls on the Gripen's GE engine since each vendor had to submit a signed affidavit before field trials that all systems listed in their bid documents were available, and needed no further approvals from any government. Remember, the IAF has said it won't choose a twin-engine aircraft in the MMRCA, if a single-engine aircraft can "do the job", i.e, is satisfactorily compliant on all 643 test points that each of the six airplanes were tested for during the field evaluation trials (FETs). But now it's up to the MoD.

SCENARIO 3: In this scenario, the GE victory in the Tejas MK-II engine competition, has a reverse effect on the MMRCA, and pushes the Eurofighter Typhoon, Rafale and F-16 (the MiG-35 is all but officially confirmed to be out) to the top of the pile, since alternate engines provide their own leverage. Scenarios 2 & 3 are of course assuming the government won't look at the Tejas MK-II and the MMRCA as "two watertight compartments" as an officer put it.


Manish Kumar said...

Happy Gandhi Jayanti to all our fellow Indians. May good sense prevail to our Netas so that they select the best of the best aircraft. Just for one chance they keep their personal financial aspirations at bay (for India's sake)and select the worthy fighter.

Anonymous said...

So which do you think is more likely?

indian said...

i think we going great gun by selecting Ge product the time engine gettes fitted it will be outdated ....

Anonymous said...

Hi Shiv, I am just happy that things are actually moving rather than struck in a talk the MMRCA...Don't disappoint europe any more as they will make loud calls to open up chinese market for their top defence tech....spare a bone or two.

mikey said...

hi shiv!!! its really wonderful to read your 1st hand news here .. but i have a suggestion for ya shiv about making a forum out here because of you many forum even some well known international forums are thriving leap and bound ,why don't you make a forum too ,so peepz from around the world can lock their horns and discuss something constructive ?? and i have a special request to post more details about this new engine GE F 414 INS6 and you never posted anything about our indigenous aircraft carrier development... thank you and keep it up

Anonymous said...

Do you remeber that the first prototype of Rafale, the Rafale A flew with two F404 and later with one F404 and one M88? The F414 and F404 are very close, because the Gripen become Gripen NG after replacing his F404 by an F414

It is possible to see a Rafale with two F414 ?? Even if Safran (Snecma) is member of GIE Rafale ??

Anonymous said...

Like the Indian Air Force pilots said, there is no connection between GE414 and MMRCA deal. We cannot choose a strategically important aircraft based on foreign engine alone.(surely, we won't get core technology)

DRDO will be more than happy if GE gets the deal because EF-200 selection would kill HAL-SNECMA kaveri engine joint venture. Rafale has to be selected for Kaveri engine joint development. DRDO is for joint development of kaveri with Snecma.

MOD is not foolish to give something strategically important MMRCA deal to the US. French will be rewarded for its nuclear deal with India.

Shiv Aroor said...

mikey: thanks. there will be a livefist discussion forum here soon. i'm on it!

Anonymous said...

Hi Shiv, could you please post the respective Dry Thrust/Wet Thrust numbers of both engines currently on offer for LCA Mk-2 in your next post?
Was the EJ-200 more powerful than the GE-414 for the European consortium to cry foul?
Awaiting a reply regarding the same as you are probably privy to the info.
Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shiv,

I respect your reporting and the lucid style with which you write but sometimes the tangent on "Scenario" gets too much for a reader. Yes GE has been selected (maybe) for Tejas MK2 and that is newsworthy but beyond that its pure speculation.

Anywone who has been following MMRCA or any other defence deal in India can conjure up many scenarios but they remain in realm of pure fantasy. Our Politicos/Babus/ MoD/ Fin Min minions etc etc work in mysterious ways.

I know its your blog and you would write what you want however i am sure that there are other news worthy defense related issues such as the malware Stuxnet. Any story on that since India is also affected?

Cecx Fable & Gas

Heberian said...

Just wondering; IF the MRCA competition involves TOT for the engine as well, and IF the Typhoon is selected, then will there be TOT for the EJ200?

=> F414 with tech transfer for the LCA + EJ with tech transfer for the MRCA

Since many here are speculating, why not some more speculations?

says Narada :)

Anonymous said...

Ofcourse the f414 has a impact on the deal, Why have 2 different engine types to maintenance and keep ok While you can have one?

Gripen or f18, if India can stand the political pressure, the gripen is a winner.

Badri said...

Twin Engine theory... Get GE produce F414 within India through Engines Deal. Get EJ200 produce engines within India through MMRCA deal. Add this to a separate deal with SNECMA for Kaveri. That would get three engines manufacturer into the country. Amazing possibilities!!

Anonymous said...

We need the E18 Growler. Honestly that in itself gives the F/A 18 a leg up over competition.

I only hope that the Engine production line and the MMRCA assembly and maintenance contract goes to anyone but HAL

My other preference is that we negotiate for the F35. Relations between the West and Turkey are on a downswing and we can step in and buy the F35.

Imagine an IAF with 7 Phalcons, 100 F35s, 300 Sukhoi MKI, the upgraded 50 Mirages, and say 200-300 LCA with israeli avionics.

We would be the king of skies..

Anonymous said...

The E18 Growler if offered to India by America (I believe there are discussions on it) will significantly tip the scales in favor of Boeing. From an EWF point of view, Boeing and Dassault are very competent vendors. But I would always recommend American, because the Europeans are purely in this for the money, whereas America would like to build a strategic partnership far into the 21st century. Besides, America is a country of equal people unlike Europe, which still anachronistically views the world through its colonial and racist lenses. Why do so many people flock to America? Ever think about that. India needs to choose partners that have shared principles and stand for human values. A partnership with a European country which only looks at your money, but does not respect you from their heart, is surely bound to fail. India and America need each other now more than ever.

Mr. Ra said...

If AMCA has to be powered by EJ200, then EFT is the MMRCA winner.

If AMCA can be powered by GEF414, then F-18 is the MMRCA winner.

If AMCA can be powered by Kaveri, then EFT is the MMRCA winner.

If F-18 is the MMRCA winner and if the fund is short, then Gripen is the MMRCA winner.

If the MMRCA is not to develop in to further versions, rather PAKFA, AMCA and Tejas mk3 may have this opportunity. Then in that case F-18 is the MMRCA winner.

If the MMRCA is to develop in to further versions, then in that case EFT is the MMRCA winner.

If overall economics of the Engine is considered then F-18 is the MMRCA winner other wise EFT is the MMRCA winner.

Here anywhere nation is not the loser, if TOT is irresistibly provided.

Kunal said...

Hedging for aero engine tech:

1) Snecma-Kaveri (French):already on.
2) GE F414 ToT (USA): finalized.

If a third hedge is reqd., then perhaps the Typhoon from the M-MRCA.

But IMHO there is certainly more than just engines that India is looking to leverage. Major tech challenges emerging from the Tejas experience are also in the areas of AESA radar n techs for "naval variant". Though we do have something going on the radar front with the Israelis, but then again, that is only so long as the blessings of USA are intact. So, I think the M-MRCA will try to leverage AESA radar plus techs for "naval variant" which ADA has already clarified will require foreign help.

In light of the above, it may be recalled that some time back India had specifically approached SAAB Gripen for a naval variant n SAAB was doing something for India n Brazil on the Sea Gripen.

Also, BAe-SAAB are quite strong in radar n EW tech n have categorically declared their intent to transfer source codes.

Besides, Gripen also has several operational advantages very relevant in the Indian context:
1)Take off n landing from unprepared patches/bombed runways.
2)Short take off n landings.
3)Chute-less braking.
4)Hot re-fueling.
These op advantages should be seen in the context of problems faced in high altitude Ladakh region at Nyoma, DBO, n Fuche ALGs.

Therefore, IMHO it is my calculated guesstimate that Gripen fits India's bill quite well incl. budget n perhaps the GE F414 for Tejas MkII was selected overriding EJ-200 as a prelude precisely for this reason n not the other way round as is being made out. Nevertheless, these can at best be calculated speculations while the final word is yet to come which may be a different googly altogether.

Anonymous said...

Shiv hot news

Maximus said...

A very interesting point emerging is that the whole issue of licensing, sanctions regime and technology transfer seems to be a non-issue if the LCA is not impacted by buying an American engine.

Clearly, the Government of India does not believe that it would be mortgaging its future if its mainstay indigenous aircraft is not afraid to be completely US dependent.

That's a huge political message to all contenders but I doubt if it rules out anyone.

Nonetheless, it should cork up Eurojet and Eurofighter who seem to have a tendency to claim 'victory' prematurely... this was the fourth such instance.

Anonymous said...

The most potent fighter in the Pak arsenal is the F-16, whereas the PLAAF's mainstay is J-10 (again an F-16 variant) supplemented by various Flankers. While MKI is considered to be adequate enough to tackle any Chinese Flankers, what the IAF has to contend with mainly are the F-16s n J-10s. In this regard, the SAAB Gripen - though lighter which is an advantage in the high altitude regions - stacks up very well against the two. Any other aircraft would be an overkill n hugely expensive which is certainly not the requirement.

Also, the IAF will be free to exercise its ingenuity of JUGAAD with the Gripen just like they did with the MKI.

Anonymous said...

I am a Swedish Gripen "fanboy" I guess, but I can not see there is any way Gripen will win MMRCA.

Just think about it, and make a mental twist: If Eurofighter, Rafale and Gripen were American planes and F16 French and F18 Swedish and, would anyone even consider F18 and F16 then?
There would be mountains of arguments against these two "geriatrics".

No, F18 will win that is my opinion, even if it failed several parameters in IAFs tests.

LettersFromEarth said...

A Super Bug/Growler combo would be a hell of a tool in the tool belt should India ever be forced to practice "Big Stick Diplomacy" with it's more adventurous and/or aggressive neighbors.

This is a fantastic blog that I enjoy following and I'm looking forward to see how this will all play out (MRCA and Tejas).

Heberian said...

What a lovely discussion! Reminds me of Swiss cheese.

Shiv: please come up soon with the forum you promised, we have the makings of Bharat Rakshak forums beater :) here.

Narayana, Narayana..said Narada :).

In the name of HAL, the IAF and Antony; Amen!

amit said...

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mirza said...

There is always more to come wait and watch!

u failed in speculation before may now or later too.

cross finger!

why not we could have different engine for MMrca?

Lca role is different than MMrca so the different base as india always has it( Mirage, Mig and su and off course Jags has own base)

why not EJ200 for MMrca with same manufacturing facility like GE??

Shubham said...

If economies of scale were the sole consideration, then i would believe the MiG -35 has an overwhelming advantage over the rest of the field, as pointed out by lots of visiting Russian Generals and MiG supporters, given India's experience in manufacturing and operating the MiG fighters.However, as various reports suggest that Mig may not be able to make it.. so i don't think the economies of scale argument holds any water, hence it would not be right to suggest that that just because GE 414 engines have been chosen, which power the f-18 and Gripen, and in future LCA mk2..Lets wait and watch the drama unfold and again lets hope the MoD & IAF not wilt under any political pressure while choosing the fighter that best serves India's future needs best!

Sam said...

Continuing my statement on the E18 Growler. fact is that we need a SEAD aircraft like the Growler for any real strike capability / posturing.

My ideal scenario would be that we get the F35. It makes sense. The turks are increasingly sounding like a radical islamic nation and I am sure the US is taking notice of Erdogan and his antics.

If we do get say 100 F35s that plus significant SEAD capabilities would enable us to keep Pakistan in check.

Remember even whether we chose F18 or the Eurofighter, our main threat would not be the F16s or the J10s but the AWACS that Pakistan is buying from SAAB. The F35 pretty much neutralizes that and a good SEAD aircraft like the Growler would act as a multiplier to the strike capabilities of the Su-MKI.

IMO, the LCA is more than enough to take on a F16 or the J10. Armed with an EL2032 radar and the Derby/Python missiles and guided by the Phalcon, it is more than a match for the F16 or the J10. It is a good aircraft but poorly project managed imo.

My only concern with GE is that they do not succeed in getting clearances from the US Govt in time. Remember that Lockheed won a design consultancy assignment only to renege on the contract.

Anonymous said...


Unless India signs CISMOA, LSA, BECA, etc.; there is no way India can get the full benefit of the Growler. That is why India got a much less capable P8I, minus the SONAR, MAD, n many other EW items. As of of now, India is not convinced about these agreements. Plus, there are a whole lot of issues interconnected with these agreements.

With regard to your point about the threat from Pak AWACS, plz do note that India does have loitering ARMs as well as long-range ARMs fired from a/c. Besides, Indian AWACS n AESA radar equipped planes will be able to detect Pak AWACS deep inside their territory which can be knocked of with Novator KS-172 that are in process of acquisition by IAF n are basically AWAC n Tanker killers.

Finally, IAF will be retiring some 400 to 500 a/c within 2015-2020 time frame n these include MiG-21Bison (point defense interceptors), Mig-27 (ground attack), Jaguar (DPSA). IAF plans to fill this gap with Tejas + an acquisition and is therefore looking at swing-role a/c for which the JSF is not suitable.

Sam said...

Anon@12:33 - Thanks for your comment on the contractual nightmares in dealing with American suppliers. Enlightening. Well, if we do not get the Growler then what is the point in buying the F18.

There is definitely going to be a gap in numbers but neither the F18 or a Eurofighter offer a solution to that problem. We will probably acquired 125 of those. The JSF however does add a 5th gen fighter capabilities and can be seen as an enhancement to our strike capabilities rather than just adding numbers.

The stealth offered by the JSF provides safety against an AWACS supported PAF. The Novator is untested and is not a sure shot a defence against an AWACS.

Remember the LCA is not a bad aircraft and is a suitable replacement for the Mig 21 numbers.

Anonymous said...

The above points are good. The paks have closed the gap with IAF, for a fraction of the cost that it took IAF to get ahead. In the next 5 years this gap will close even faster. In the next 5 years they will have:

- close to 100 near block 50/52 f16's
- 36 J10B's
- 150 Thunder's
- 80 f7pg
- 6 refuellers

total= ~350
all these will have BVR, in-flight refuelling, off-bore missiles coupled with HMS...its one hell of a package and it will grow...the only thing to give us an advantage then is the PAKFA. I think we need to scrap the MMRCA...stick to LCA for now and then just go for the PAKFA in large numbers.

Anonymous said...


Here is a news item on the Tejas MkII, dated 24/06, that perhaps would be of interest to you: