Tuesday, April 12, 2011
IAF set to seal $ 10 bn combat aircraft deal
The Eurofighter Typhoon is in combat for the first time over Libya and the Indian Air Force is watching with deep interest. The aircraft is one of six competing for the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) tender. And recent reports give the Eurofighter and the French Rafale the edge in the competition.
Air Marshal PK Barbora, Ex Vice Chief of Air Staff said, "The Air Force is not looking at price. That's not our area of concern. What we want is QRs are focussed on technical aspects, latest technology. Lot is available in the market and there is potential for future growth."
The EuroFighter and the Rafale are relatively new aircraft and in that sense, state of art. The Eurofighter entering service with six air forces in the last few years. And the Rafale in service with the French Air Force.
Air Commodore Jasjit Singh, Director, Centre for Air Power Studies said, "We've bought a huge amount of arms from the US already. In comparision, the last few years, hardly anything from Europe. Therefore, you could make an adjustment and spread your eggs in different baskets."
Subtle weaknesses could rule out some of the contenders. Boeing's F18 is huge and the IAF isn't keen on planes that heavy. Sweden's Gripen is deadly but India's Light Combat Aircraft could be improved to match it. Lockheed Martin's F-16 is also flown by Pakistan.
But, India urgently needs more fighters. The new planes will take ten years to come, even after the deal is signed. An offer for second hand planes, over and above the new ones being negotiated, could sweeten the deal.
The crucial element now, is political capital. How India can leverage the world's biggest fighter aircraft tender for larger gains.