India rejects US for USD 10 Billion Fighter plan deal

In height of India and USA friendship, the following news could be felt as shocking decision for some. Let-s shed some light on it.
MMRCA: The Indian Air Force (IAF) Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) Competition.
 Key facts about MMRCA:

  1. It is ongoing fighter selection competition for Indian Air Force.

  2. Value for this deal is around USD 11.1 billion, Exactly INR 50,000 crore.

  3. Indian Air Force is going to obtain 126 numbers of aircrafts. (It may be more depending upon Government and IAF change in stance).

  4. IAF will acquire 18 fighter planes in -Fly away- condition. Others will be jointly manufactured with HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited).

  5. 6 bidders were in competition. Bidders are:  

    1. Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (USA)

    2. Dassault Rafale (France)

    3. Eurofighter Typhoon (EADS, European clostridium)

    4. Lockheed Martin F-16IN Super (USA)

    5. Mikoyan MiG-35 (Russia)

    6. Saab Gripen NG (Sweden)

    7. Apart from Gripen and F-16 others are twin engine fighter plane.

    8. Only F-18 and F-16 considerable combat experience.

    9. Mig-35 is an evolution version. (Prototype)   




 When IAF Issues tender for 126 aircrafts in 2007, most international observers said it will be a political decision rather than a defense deal. In that context it is very difficult to digest that F-18 and F-16 is out of competition of this very lucrative deal.
What happened exactly in defense ministry and in IAF is subject of speculation. Instead of going deep into it let-s look into some prospective cases which may have played a crucial role in elimination of these 2 potent fighter aircraft.
Though there must many critical and non critical issues caused this decision, it can be broadly classified into two sections.
 Technical issues

  1. Old Platform:  Both F-18 and F-16 are based on 1978 and 1984 airframe which will be not that effective in near future.

  2. Effectiveness in diverse condition in India: For any aircraft, it is difficult to operate in diverse condition as we have in India. Summer trials of these aircraft happened to be in Nagpur where temperature usually touches 50 C.  Engine restart is a problem in such cases. Winter trials happened in Leh with -10 C to -30 C and in a height of 12,000 ft. Engine start is a problem. In both the cases both fighters performance was questionable.

  3. Transfer of Technology:  As per RFP (Request For Proposal) total transfer of technology should be happen to start indigenous production of the aircraft. It was doubted that US will allow complete transfer of technology or will ask to sign Transfer related treaties which will hamper operational efficiency of that plane.

  4. Other Issues:  There is doubt that any integration of custom made device or module will be possible in those fighter.  Countless end user agreements such as CISMOA (Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement) also seen as hurdles in procuring advance US jets.


 Non Technical issues:

  1. Historical reasons:  India does not good experience with US in terms of procuring advance hardware and supply of spare parts. The issue with SeaKing is still at large with India-s defense planner.

  2. Fear of Future Sanctions: India US relation suffers a lot after 1998 nuclear experiment by India. The way US put sanctions on Indian defense procurements are also not taken lightly.

  3. Pakistan and price factor: This may not be a game changing factor but it still hurts Indian policy makers that  the way US selling arms to Pakistan at discounted prices where as they charge full quotation price for India.

  4. Maintaining political Balance:  According to some observers buying European fighter may give India the political edge or balance in terms of maintaining foreign relations.


 There may be many reasons other than pointed above but to keep the discussion short and simple, have only considered these few points.