US will have to offer India generous terms to seal combat aircraft deal: Expert (Part-II)

January 28th, 2011 - 6:39 pm ICT by ANI  

F-16 Because of the dramatic transformations in combat aviation technology currently underway, the Indian Government should select the least expensive, mature, combat-proven fourth generation fighter for the IAF as a bridge toward procuring more advanced stealth aircraft in the future.

Under this criterion, the European aircraft are technically superb, but the U.S. entrants prove to be formidable “best buys” Tellis says.

From the summer of 2009 to the summer 2010, the IAF supervised flight trials of the American Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-16IN Super Viper, the French Dassault Aviation Rafale, the Russian RSK MiG’s MiG-35, the European Eurofi ghter Consortium’s Typhoon, and the Swedish Saab Gripen NG (Next Generation).

Besides the extensive demonstrations conducted in the home countries of these manufacturers, the IAF also directed grueling fl y-off s in three different Indian locations - Bangalore, Jaisalmer, and Leh-to test the comparative performance of the aircraft under conditions of extreme humidity, intense heat, and high field elevations, respectively.

These field trials constituted just the fourth of the eight stages called for by India’s defense procurement procedures for major purchases.

Tellis says that the Indian Request for Proposals (RFP) requires that 60 percent of the aircraft’s technology be transferred to India in four phases, with different percentages of technology transfer occurring in each phase.

This conveyance is intended to underwrite both the indigenous manufacture of the selected aircraft and its subsequent maintenance and support, with 50 percent of the foreign exchange component of the purchase costs being defrayed through direct off sets within the Indian aerospace sector.

Given the IAF’s weakening force structure, it is a distinct possibility that the eventual Indian MMRCA buy will exceed the initial 126 aircraft.

“The fact that India’s civilian security managers in the Ministry of Defense and, ultimately, its political leaders who man the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), will make the final decision about which aircraft will be procured, underscores one critical reality about the prospective MMRCA countdown.

Tellis says that his report on India’s MMRCA competition has three broad objectives:

First, it elucidates the kind of combat aircraft that would be necessary for India, given the operational environment that the IAF is likely to confront. Political considerations are likely to influence which aircraft is eventually selected.

Second, it illuminates the difficult tradeoff s that India would be confronted with as it chooses among six excellent airplanes on the triangular criteria of technical merit, relative cost, and force structure integrity.

Third, it seeks to achieve the foregoing aims by advancing three specific injunctions that policymakers in New Delhi should take to heart as they make their fi nal decision: (1) conclude the MMRCA competition expeditiously; (2) do not split the MMRCA purchase; and, (3) buy the “best” aircraft for the mission.

Tellis concludes by saying that the MMRCA bid has been one of the hottest recent aviation procurements not just in India, but internationally, too.

Eight countries and six companies eagerly await the outcome of this contest.

“This has turned into such a sizzling affair not only because of the size of the contract. Indeed, there are bigger procurement battles raging internationally. Rather, this procurement bid has been incandescent because it involves geopolitics, the economic fortunes of major aerospace companies, complex transitions in combat aviation technology, and the evolving character of the IAF itself,” he says. (ANI)

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