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MMRCA Deal Analysis


                  Article By – Vikas Uttamrao Thombare & Pratisht Chaudhry

We all know that Indian Air Force is world’s fourth largest and powerful Airforce but even after this, we lack in numbers because maybe Indian air force is qualitatively much better than our modern enemies but lacks a crucial thing which are numbers. The Indian air force (IAF) planned to have 42 fighter squadrons where a typical fighter squadron contains 18-20 aircrafts but currently, IAF only have some 32+ fighter squadrons and that too are composed of fighters like Mig-21, Jaguars, Mirage-2000’s etc, as you Might guess these aircrafts are decades old, although all of them have been upgraded extensively from Mig-21 to Mig-21 bison, from jaguars Darin ii to Jaguar Darin iii, from mirage-2000 to upgraded mirages [there are more details about these upgrades below] , these fighters are capable of facing current generation fighters best example of that is how a decades old Mig-21 of IAF shot a modern Pakistani F-16 but still upgrading is not an option because the upgrades require a high cost and further a thing can just be upgraded to a limit, a limit which is offered by an aircraft for example su-30 MKI have been extensively upgraded not because it is under-capable but because of its structure and Mighty AL-31FP engines which offers a thrust of 123 kN , the potential to upgrade that machine is humungous but when it comes to smaller aircrafts, the upgrading them beyond a limit is not possible because of their old structures to comparatively weaker engines.

India to overcome this problem launched a tender/deal to induct aircrafts in large numbers in 2007, named MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) tender. In this article we would be knowing tender in more details, all the fighters competing in MMRCA, overview of particular fighters and their advantages/disadvantages, geo-political advantage of the aircrafts and reason of failures.

Introduction: –

The Indian air force desperately needs 114 fighter jets to replace its ageing fleet of vintage Mig-21 and many other fighters from 1970s.

The medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) competition was launched in 2007 in India, also known as the MMRCA tender or MRCA (multi-role combat aircraft) tender, was a competition to supply 114 multi-role combat aircraft to the Indian Air Force (IAF). It is India’s single largest defence deal. The MMRCA tender was floated with the idea of filling the gap between its future light combat aircraft and its in-service Sukhoi Su-30MKI air superiority fighter as told earlier IAF is the fourth largest air force in the world, with a strength of more than 1,500 aircraft, including more than 750 combat aircraft.

Ageing Mig’s

Due to budgetary constraints—specifically, the economic problems in the early 1990s—the refurbishment of old planes and purchase of new ones was halted. Added to this was the disintegration of the soviet union, which led to severe shortage of aircraft spares, which rendered many of them unserviceable. The attrition was stemmed to some extent by extensive upgrade programs on the Mig-21 (bis upgrade), Mig-27 (retired now), Jaguar (Darin I upgrade) and other aircraft in the mid-1990s. an aggressive program of upgrades was initiated. the Mig-21bis aircraft have been upgraded to Mig-21 bison levels (125 aircraft will be upgraded to that standard), Jaguars to Darin iii standards, and Mirage 2000s and Mig-27s were also upgraded, with decreased aircraft squadrons level, mainly Mig-21s are set to be replaced by MRCA winner because all the above aircrafts except Mig-21 can serve a bit more.

Requirement of Indian Air Force: –

The aircraft are intended as day and night capable, all weather multi-role combat aircraft which can be used for the following roles: –

(a) air superiority

 (b) air defence

 (c) air to surface operations

(d) reconnaissance

(e) maritime

 (f) EW missions

 (g) buddy refuelling etc.

The short-listed contenders (foreign equipment manufacturer) are:

  1. Dassault Rafale
  2. Eurofighter Typhoon
  3. Boeing f/a-18 super hornet
  4. Lockheed Martin F-16/21
  5. Saab Gripen E/F
  6. Mikoyan Mig-35
  7. Sukhoi Su-35
  8. Boeing F-15 Ex
  1. Dassault Rafale: –

country of origin: – France

per unit cost: – US$84.48 million

Pros: –

 Cons: –

2.Boeing F/A-18 super hornet

country of origin: – USA

per unit cost: – US$55 million

pros: –

Cons: –

3. Eurofighter Typhoons

country of origin: – Germany , Spain , Italy , UK

per unit cost: – us$108 million

pros: –

Cons: –

4. Boeing F-15EX

country of origin: – USA

per unit cost: – US$ 125 million (latest us f-15 ex deal)

pros: –

cons: –

5. Sukhoi su-35

country of origin: – Russia

per unit cost: –  USD 65 million 

pros: –

cons: –

6. Lockheed martin f 16/21: –

country of origin: – usa

per unit cost: – us$50 million

pros: –

cons: –

7. Saab Gripen NG: –

country of origin: – Sweden

per unit cost: – us$48 million

pros: –

cons: –

8. Migoyan Mig-35

country of origin: – Russia

per unit cost: – us$38.5 million

pros: –

cons: –

Fate of the deal: –

MMRCA is the biggest military aviation tender (by value) that has been released in past two decades. since this deal is going to be a game changer for Indian aviation sector and MSMEs ecosystem as this is will new technologies into Indian ecosystem hence chances of scrapping of these deals are quite high given the current conditions

current CDS gen Bipin Rawat has said  that India in future will not go for big ticket purchases from foreign OEMs and would rather go with staggered purchase method this is so because post its induction when they come to end of their life , all are phased out at the same time and this would create a deeper void in IAF inventory and this indicate that India will go ahead with follow on order of additional 36 Rafale and will again go with another 36 Rafale which will bring the Rafale fighter jet to 108 that would come with a lower price tag because of recent amendments in latest DPP policy where mod has removed offset clause in government to government deals which will decrease the acquisition cost and also India has already paid for ise (India specific enhancement)

Cons Of Staggered Purchases: –

Indian MSMEs will not get the required technology and know how to build advance fighter jet components and substructure in India.

Conclusion: –

although the deal seems to be quiet impressive, it’s a matter of fact that MMRCA deal have already been scrapped once and today also the future of this deal seems to be inconclusive when it is launched again with a name of MMRCA 2.0 .the deal in itself doesn’t make any sense as it could chain India to foreign nations , the mistake we wouldn’t like to do so as we did with USSR as the number of 126 jets is not small , the  deal even if taken seriously would take some 3-5 years at its quickest pace, then the delivery of the aircraft would start after 2025-2027, that time in itself is very crucial for Indian aviation industry as  India is entering a booming era where it would roll out its indigenous aircrafts and make super crucial weapons  like AMCA mk-1, Tejas MK-2,  super Sukhoi’s, TEDBF, ORCA so the deal could prove fatal to these programs and geo-political pressure can break India’s diplomacy because if we buy from Europe, America and Russia have problems, if we buy from us, Russia can move close to china and Europe can again gain its India reluctant behaviour again and this chain continues,  India’s only way is Atmanirbhar Bharat and with programs like AMCA to Tejas Mk-2 ,India have the chance to go from importer of foreign equipment’s to their creditors/ exporter, let the country shine.

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