Impending MMRCA Waste

Narendra Modi has handled Shinzo Abe, Xi Jinping, and Barack Obama well. So fending off pressure from the Indian Air Force (IAF) and European states on medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) should be easy, especially because favouring the French Rafale aircraft or the German Eurofighter is likely to permanently tar the reputation of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party as the Bofors gun scam did the Congress party. A boondoggle lurks just below the MMRCA decision and requires, not finalising, but scrutiny by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The MMRCA was conceived by the IAF brass as means of procuring Western aircraft under the rubric of “diversifying supply sources”. The deficiencies in the MMRCA concept and the Rafale aircraft and deal have been analysed in my previous writings. But how supplier states brazenly play a con game using transfer of technology (TOT) provisions with the full connivance and complicity of the ministry of defence and services headquarters is astonishing and has, so far, gone unnoticed. An egregious example is that Dassault, as part of the Rafale contract, has promised gallium nitride (GaN) technology to make semi-conductor chips utilised in high-powered avionics but refused to part with technology for the foundries to fabricate the chips! India will thus pay through its nose for technology that cannot be converted into a component, which will end up being imported for the lifetime of the aircraft.

Eurofighter has come back into the reckoning because the visiting German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier offered 126 of this aircraft for Rs 20,000 crore less than the Rafale. A discounted price cannot outweigh the redundancy aspect attending on the MMRCA in general and the negatives of the Eurofighter/Rafale in particular. Take the case of the AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar enabling combat planes to shift between ground attack and air-to-air interception roles. The European consortium EADS talked up the dated and deficient Captor-M PESA (passive electronically scanned array) radar when IAF was assessing the Eurofighter. It is to be enhanced to full AESA capability courtesy a $1.8 billion 5-year Captor-E project just sanctioned by the UK government. New Delhi will thus pay for the development of the enhanced Captor-E system, which will be available a decade late for retrofitting on the Eurofighter peddled to IAF without, however, enjoying intellectual property rights on the AESA technology as its development-funder!

More significantly, this plane has an unstable flight control system driven by faulty software that, according to a story in reputable periodical Der Spiegel dated July 10, 2013, has led to many near-disasters such as the aircraft almost flying into the air traffic control tower at the Neuberg air base in 2007. Other serious problems afflict this plane such as a flawed pilot ejection system. Design and system deficiencies have periodically grounded the Eurofighter fleet in the German Air Force. The Austrian Air Force, with 15 Eurofighters in service, detected 68 defects in it that potentially could have caused fatal crashes such as the altimeter being off by nearly 200 feet, unbalanced aircraft owing to incorrect pumping of aviation fuel into the engine, etc.

The main production plant at Manching, moreover, lost its licence to manufacture the Eurofighter because a German defence ministry review, in the words of Der Spiegel, found “unprecedented sloppiness in production”, identifying 35 defects in the production process and another 49 in the quality control process. Worse, EADS delivered only 108 aircraft instead of 143 Eurofighters for the contracted sum of 18.6 billion Euros. Further, the Eurofighter, like the Rafale, has found no buyers, because it represents obsolete technology! Most problematically from the Indian perspective is the fact that Eurofighter has many US-made components and its networking system (data fusion, air-to-air and other communications links, etc.) is designed by the American company, Raytheon. From India’s past experience of the US terminating spares and other material supplies over policy differences and in violation of contractual obligations, Eurofighter is thoroughly compromised goods. Grounding of C-17/C-130 transport fleets is one thing; losing whole squadrons of frontline combat aircraft this way in a crisis is something else altogether.

Interesting revelations may tumble out if CBI inquired into how, why, and by whom the MMRCA decisions were crafted. In the early 2000s, as a “stop gap” measure a decision was taken to acquire 12 Mirage 2000-5 aircraft with 85 per cent of its life still remaining from Qatar, which had acquired them from France in 1997. The tripartite deal, involving aircraft producer Dassault, was struck in April 2005 for $600 million, including a stock of 500 air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles. It was aborted a few months later when IAF headed by Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi arbitrarily slashed its offer to $375 million. The decision by a protesting Qatar to back out of the deal was used to conjure up the entirely novel MMRCA requirement and push for global tender, which Dassault hoped to win and, surprise! surprise!, did.

It is unfortunate that military bosses cry wolf in order to stampede the government of the day into approving purchases of often unnecessary weapons platforms they desire. The IAF brass did so to get the Qatari Mirages sanctioned before abruptly junking the deal and opting for shinier hardware; now they say they can’t do without the Rafale! If the need was so urgent 10 years ago, why was the termination of the Qatari transaction engineered? The problem of depleting fighter squadrons that IAF complains about can be filled in short order and at fraction of the eventual $30 plus billion MMRCA cost, as suggested by this analyst, by accelerating production and induction of the Tejas Mk-1 for short-range air defence combined with off-the-shelf buys of the multi-role and technologically superior Su-30s and MiG-29Ms (whose servicing infrastructure is in place) until the Indianised genuine 5th generation fighter, Su-50 PAK FA enters service by the end of the decade. Finally, after cutting Rs 3,000 crore from the army’s procurement budget as an economy measure, defence minister Arun Jaitley may find it hard to justify a requirements-wise questionable MMRCA costing Rs 1.8 lakh crore, or sixty times as much.

[Published in the New Indian Express, Oct 3, 2014 at

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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39 Responses to Impending MMRCA Waste

  1. Dinesh K says:

    Your article was interesting. For the first time I read what we had heard in whispers the Tyagi / Browne combo cancelling the Qatar deal. In fact if the CVC / CBI so wishes / desires, the scandal of how Browne when he was ACAS Plans drafted the stupid RFP for the MMRCA and Tyagi ensured that Rafale was selected can be found out easily. I had heard whispers in the MoD corridors of how IAF officers were made to retire when they pointed out by analogy that instead of buying a Full Fledged Ferrari Car, the IAF had drafted specification such that a Ferrari can be purchased with an Ambassador engine. MoD & Antony knew this and other such glaring errors but the combo was all too powerful. Abroad when we questioned MoD about such glaring errors in evaluation (it was impossible to digest that Eurofighter had come in top 2) we were told hush hush stories. Stories which became true when the man in question was sent as Ambassador. A pity that we will be spending twice the money.

  2. Atul says:

    Good article. Additional facts:
    UAE Air Force has about 60 plus Mirage 2000-9 (export version of Mirage 2000-5) fighters which they have been offering to Indian Air Force for a while. UAE bought at least half of them in mid-2000s so they are not very old. Rest were upgraded to the newer standards by Dassault. Going by the fighter market, India can get them quite cheap as UAE is eager to sell them and buy new ones but IAF wants only RAFALE.

  3. Ijaz says:

    Yes that’s a good article but ToT for rafale fighter will provide all the necessary technologies for the production of the fighter plane in India by HAL and article writer is suggesting that we should have either selected F18 or F16 instead of rafale which are more expensive and doesnot have that much combact radius nor that much ceiling height [except F 18]

    • Not sure what Ijaz@ is reading. Far from purchasing F-16/18 as MMRCA my writings over the years have been expounding on the dangers inherent in buying American, which’s highlighted in this piece as well.And as far as TOT allowing India th ability to reproduce Rafale in toto, again, he has missed out on precisely the sort of chicanery indulged in by all suppliers including Dassault as pointed out in the article with respect to high-end technologies.

    • Atul says:

      HAL received TOT for MiG-21, Sukhoi-30MKI, Dornier, AJT Hawk, Jaguar and many more. Unfortunately, none of that could give it enough experience & knowledge or “”TOT”” to produce one Indian indigenous fighter. Even an intermediate trainer HJT-36, which it produced, is faulty, can’t spin and remains heavy, even with a foreign engine. The basic trainer HTT-40 has half of its components including engine, propeller all imported. So your claim on TOT to produce Rafale fighter is running on pretty thin ice..

      India’s IMPORTED AIR FORCE is happy buying & importing foreign fighters and HAL is happy screwdriving and “assembling” them in its plants. One good fighter LCA Tejas has challenged this existing regime.

      See the aggressive reaction from everyone coming against it !!!

      • True, on all counts. The issue seems to be to be one of sustaining the pretence of ToT as the pathway to self-reliance at any cost, including paying big money for nonexistent transfer of essentials (like GaN foundries). HAL, like other DPSUs, seems content with the licensed manufacture mode with what I have called Meccano-level skill sets. This repeated charge of mine — see a piece from the past “Zero for DRDO” that drew strong reactions from Arunachalam, ex-SA to RM (both featured elsewhere in this blog).

  4. Ajay says:

    I have been following your writings on this blog and elsewhere for sometime now. Your grasp of issues related to national security is amazing and you have been elucidating them lucidly for some time. i fully endorse central theme of your writings on MMRCA that our salvation lie in homegrown, howsoever long it taker or however hard it is. Although I have some points of disagreements.

    1. I quote, “it was aborted a few months later when IAF headed by Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi arbitrarily slashed its offer to $375 million”. You are assuming that CAS has the authority to cancel a proposal duly approved by the GOI. If that was the case then Rafale would have already be flying in IAF colours since as you claim successive CAS are involved in illegal designs to the import the said fighter.

    2. May be you know something that we the public is not aware of . In that case it would be proper to file a complaint after ascertain facts through RTI act. If that takes up too much of your time then you can place all the proof in public domain and let the people make up their own mind. The hit and run kind of accusation against senior leadership of services (which could be true, but as yet unproven) does not add credit to your good name. If you think that CBI/CVC inquiry would help then file a case.

    3. The French are in it for money, so are the Americans. The yanks may also want to establish critical dependency by offering cheaper options. The IAF wants a fighter that can outfight the contemporary fighters. Unfortunately, the local bird is long on promise and short on delivery. The promise of 4 ++ gen fighter is as yet unfulfilled. We will get there eventually, hopefully,but, what to do in the interim. Maybe the GOI can risk the capability gap in the short term and allow LCA, MCA to fructify. The IAF is right (in my opinion) to ask for something that is ready now. The final call has to be made by the govt.

    4. Shortcomings of Eurofighter are a straw-man argument. It is not being negotiated now. When that happens you can bring your argument.

    • ajayally@ — I have nowhere accused anybody of anything; merely pointed out how the MMRCA requirement came to be, and the curious manner in which IAF has sought to meet the problem of depletion of operational squadrons. At the very least, it seems arbitrary. Incidentally, nothing in my piece re: the IAF transaction for Qatari Mirage 2000-5s is a new revelation. It was carried in new news reports at the time!

  5. capris darashah says:

    So are you suggesting that the IAF wait indefinitely, for an option suitable to you, while it retires its ageing fleets. Access to matters pertaining to acquisition might be presented in full, may why/what reasons were given to scrap the Mirage deal in favour of the MMRCA option. May i request you to please write an article based on your strategic insight as to an effective way forward for the IAF?

    • No, the immediate solution is what I have elaborated in the past and mentioned in precis form in the piece — accelerated induction of Tejas Mk-1s plus off the shelf buys of addl Su-30s and MiG-29Ms.

      • capris darashah says:

        In your opinion,
        1. Is the Tejas Mk1, in its present stae combat ready (effectiveness and survivability in a BVR environment)?
        2. Does HAL have the capability to accelerate production of the Mk-1?

      • capris darashah says:

        3. You didn’t see any issues with the way the Russians carried out the Gorshkov refurbishment deal, and the present state of operationalisation of the MiG-29 Ks? (with specific reference to induction of russian platforms).

        I thought the RFP for the MMRCA spelt out basic capability and ASQR test points , and amongst the deliverables were life cycle costs, to get a fair idea of the fiscal and sustained maintainenance effort involved..

  6. @capris — Yes, on both counts, but IAF shows no urgency in getting through the final certification process and generally hurrying the plane into service. Re: Russians are no saints and have picked up quickly on Western ways of scamming the Indian customer. I wrote when the Gorshkov deal was in embryo of insisting on air-tight conditionalities and against paying for the whole transaction up front — the sort of thing I have commented on recently as well. This was not done, and we suffered.

    Re: MMRCA life cycle costs — India simply has no expertise to calculate these — and much of the analytic framework for it is provided by Westerfn suppliers — having never developed any metrics ourselves over the years, until now when “life cycle” has become a new thing to befuddle the GOI with. The US — originators of the life cycle cost-concept has an entire training institution to train economists and accountants to learn the extremely complex accounting and costing schemata. IAF- MoD have not picked up other than surface notions and are running with it!

  7. This is a response by @yves pagot published in the New Indian Express and reproduced here, to further the discussion. My reaction to this response was submitted but not carried by the newspaper in its web edition. So here here’s the Yves Pagot missive followed by my response. @Yves Pagot writes:
    Just a few points
    (i) Dassault could not promis to provide GaN technology as it never built any. The only GaN elements buit for X-band radars in Europe are built by UMS, a Thalès/Airbus joint venture. Btw, could you SOURCE your assertion that “Dassault” refused to provide GaN chips based technology? Hot air.
    (ii) Walter Steinmeier never offered a 20000 crore less than Rafale price. He offered a 20% discount on previous Airbus proposal. Hot air again.
    (iii) AESA radars allow planes to shift between A2A and A2G modes. Thanks god, noone waited for AESA radars to do so. Or are you meaning that Su30 PESA radar can’t? (aswell as Tejas MkI btw)…Hot air
    (iv) Captor-M is a mechanical steered antenna (see the M?) not a PESA … Do not try to give lessons to those qho know (hot air)
    (v) Manching lost its licence production since when??? SOURCE please, it is becoming hilarious.
    (vi) you are contradicting yourself. First you claim that AESA allows switches from A2A to A2G, than that SU30 and Tejas MkI (who do not use AESA radars) are technologically superior. I’m confused.
    All in all, the same level as your articles about rafale : faulty altimeter.
    My reply to issues raised ad seriatim:
    1) India is being asked to pay for ToT on the entire Rafale MMRCA, inclusive of every component, sub-system, and system, and Dassault heads the consortium of French Companies producing the Rafale. So Dassault cannot get away by saying that Thales. not Dassault, having IPR on the GaN tech including foundries, is the one to transfer it. Substance, not hot air!
    2) The Rs 20,000 crore figure was taken from news reports, with the stories being fed by sources in IAF-MOD. So whether that 20% discount amounts to Rs 20,000 crore over all, is a quibble, not hot air!
    3) The Russians have developed a tested, and proven, Phazytron Zhuk-E AESA radar for their planes, which can be fitted on additional Su-30s and MiG-29Ms that can be bought, and retrofitted on Su-30MKIs and MiG29s in service with IAF. Substance, not hot air!
    4) Right, the Captor-M is a mechanical multi-mode pulse doppler radar. But this only adds to my argument, because qualitatively it falls way below even a PESA radar, which per Wikipedia “can scan a volume of space much quicker than a traditional mechanical system. Additionally, … PESAs [have] the ability to produce several active beams, allowing them to continue scanning the sky while at the same time focusing smaller beams on certain targets for tracking or guiding semi-active radar homing missiles.” So, how much less effective would the Captor-M equipped Eurofighter be than the Zhuk-E equipped Su-30s and MiG-39Ms?? Substance, not hot air!
    5)Source for Manching losing production license? The Der Speigel article mentioned in the piece.. Look it up. Not hot air!
    6) Can’t unconfuse a terminally confused person but I’ll try. Tejas will have the indigenous AESA based on the Israeli Elbit 2032 computer under accelerated development. This AESA could also outfit other combat aircraft in IAF (even if one discounted the availability of the Zhuk-E for retrofitment on Indian Sukhois and MiG-29s). And these planes would be far better than the Captor-M equipped Eurofighter. Substance, not hot air!

    • More on @yves pagot. Though he claims no affiliation or association with Dassault, according to the usual authoritative sources, he’s some kind of PR trouble shooter for this French Company. In any case, Pagot has written elsewhere that GaN tech will be made available to Canada. In 2014 itself, he writes, a Rafale demonstrator will fly with gallium-nitride (GaN) made SPECTRA antennas, a world first, demonstration. See
      And as regards, what was shown IAF officers assessing the Eurofighter — it was, per a reliable source, a hybrid mechanical-PESA radar.

      • Jats213 says:

        World’s first for what? Gallium Nitride first flew on an aircraft during the competition for the Next Generation jammer, when Northrop Grumman first flew its proposed GaN based prototype. Subsequently, Raytheon tested theirs on the ground and later after winning the competition tested their in the air as is public knowledge.

  8. vistasbharat says:

    There is some positive news in that a Russian media source ( reports quoting another source that the Air Force is considering inducting Indian private players into this field. This can be successful if we drive a hard bargain on Offsets. We cannot afford being taken for a ride on technology. Incidentally, Rafale is offering 100% offsets to Canada but cribbing on 30% offsets for India. Around the world, 50-100% offsets are the norm, not the measly 30% we have settled upon.

  9. Sancho says:

    1) India is being asked to pay for ToT on the entire Rafale MMRCA, inclusive of every component, sub-system, and system, and Dassault heads the consortium of French Companies producing the Rafale. So Dassault cannot get away by saying that Thales. not Dassault, having IPR on the GaN tech including foundries, is the one to transfer it. Substance, not hot air!

    It’s complete nonsense, because it’s not GaN but if at all GaAs (gallium arsenide) to start with! You are claiming a lot but don’t get yout facts right as Yves Pagot correctly pointed out. Rafales AESA and SPECTRA EWS include GaAs modules, which as explained are not developed by Dassault, but by Thales and EADS/Airbus, therefor is joint German / French development and any share of techs would need approval of these companies not Dassault. GaN modules on the other side are just in development stage and are aimed on upgrades of the radar and EW at the end or of this decade only, contrary to your claims. Not to mention that the belive that only because we are ready to pay for ToT, is enough we get anything we ask for, is more than naive! If things would be as simple as you try to make it, the Gulf states would already have the full technology of the latest fighters. The UAE has co-funded the AESA and EW developments of the F16 Block 60 and will financially gain from exports, but also won’t have IP rights. Nor will Brazil get them, from the Italo/British/Swedish AESA radar that they even are meant to licence produce, since licence production doesn’t mean that you have jointly developed it! If we had jointly funded the AESA development, we would had got access to the techs and as the UAE had gained from exports, but the radar doesn’t somehow become an Indian radar as simple as it is, just as the FGFA radar won’t be India only because we co-own the FGFA.

    3) The Russians have developed a tested, and proven, Phazytron Zhuk-E AESA radar for their planes, which can be fitted on additional Su-30s and MiG-29Ms that can be bought, and retrofitted on Su-30MKIs and MiG29s in service with IAF. Substance, not hot air!

    Again, please get your facts right. The AESA is not fully developed and reportedly too heavy for the Mig. That’s why not even Russian Air Force and Navy are procuring it for their latest Mig 29K and SMT procurements. So it’s neither operational and far away from being proven!

    So, how much less effective would the Captor-M equipped Eurofighter be than the Zhuk-E equipped Su-30s and MiG-39Ms?? Substance, not hot air!

    Again you are mixing up things, because the Captor M was never offered with the Eurofighter in MMRCA, but the Captor-E Swashplate AESA was! Just as the Zhuk AE AESA was offered with the Mig 35 and not the Zhuk ME puls doppler radar that the IAF and IN now use with their Mig 29s. So you not only was mistaken by calling Captor M a PESA, but by the fact that it had no importance in MMRCA, since AESA was the base requirement!

    And to add soome more mistakes:

    “Eurofighter, like the Rafale, has found no buyers”
    Which would be true only, if we ignore that Austria bought 15, Saudi Arabia 72 and Oman 12 Eurofighters. One can be criticla how these exports happend, but can’t really deny them, unless you simply didn’t knew it. That however would be kind of strange, since even Wikipedia would have told you that.

    I also loved the part where you complained about the US parts in the Eurofighter and that it can create problems during sanctions. But if a Eurofighter, with an European engine, European AESA, European IRST and main avionics could be grounded according to your claims, what would happen with a fleet of 140+ LCA with GE engines? What will happen with aroudn 100 x upgraded Jaguars with Honeywell engines? What would happen with our latest Shivalik class Frigates and the Vikrant Class Aircraft Carrier that will have GE engines?
    Isn’t the fact, that even our own indigenous developments today are much more vulnerable on US sanctions, than the Rafale or even the Eurofighter is, let alone a large part of the IAF aircrafts?

    • Atul says:

      Some basic facts, which may help you:
      1.The entire cost of Rafale fighter development project has been estimated at $ 60 billion plus. The Indian tender for 189 fighters is near $ 30 billion, which means France is asking for half of its development cost for less than 200 fighters, while France can build thousands if needed. After paying half of the development cost and becoming the pioneer and leading buyer of this craft, if India doesn’t get the AESA radar technology, M-88 engine’s hot core and SCB technology and SPECTRA source codes, it would be lot of money going down the drain.

      2.The entire project for buying medium fighter was contingent on the fact that India would get AESA radar technology, SPECTRA and aviation turbine engine technology from this project. Every time this issue came up, Dassault and everyone from France, including Sarkozy, guaranteed that they will provide all sorts of technology transfers if they got this deal. Sarkozy even gave his personal guarantee. Now, Dassault is not even ready to guarantee the QA of 108 fighters built in India. Radar and engine tech are off the table. How low can this deal go?

      3.Eurofighter is already out of the window. It’s a multi-nation fighter with every nation having different defence policies. India can’t try to satisfy all of their requirements especially during a conflict which they do might not approve of. Additionally, this fighter’s design is faulty in the aft section which has made its prospects increasingly low. The cost is another issue and with multiple production lines, its price will always be higher. These factors are still present. Hence, there is not a chance that this fighter will come back in reckoning.

      4.Don’t forget that even after horrendous delay, numerous international economic sanctions and all sorts of hindrances, the entire LCA TEJAS program has cost India only near about 2 billion US dollars. However, Indian MIL-IND complex has learned heaps from this investment. So why would India pay so much money to Dassault instead of investing a portion of that money in AMCA and other better options ?? IAF would have to look for backup options urgently.

      Rafale is a good fighter and it would be good to have it but the price and technology transfer are major factors which will decide the deal’s conclusion. India has to induct fifth generation fighters also very soon as Chinese J-20 and J-31 are pacing up with their certification. Indian government needs to be careful on this issue.

  10. @sancho — you have raised reasonably some contentious issues. Re: (1) Thales and GaN foundry tech — a convoluted way off letting Dassault/Thales off the hook (2) Zhuk-E — there’s contrary evidence on this — just scour the publicly available info, (3) There’s no Q but that India’s up a tree with reliance on US spares, parts, power plants, etc — on our current platforms. But this only enhances the point I have been making for over two decades now that India is only sinking deeper into a military dependency relationship with all suppliers. This has to end — a national effort has to be mounted along the Chinese lines of massive reverse engg, to do this.

    • @Sancho — see the response to Pagot above on GaN tech to Canada.

    • Sancho says:

      “a convoluted way off letting Dassault/Thales off the hook” Of the hook of what? Your claim that they (Dassault) is not ready to share a tech, that they can’t share in the first place. It’s not letting them of the hook but calling you claim wrong in the first place! So if there is an issue with the share of AESA techs, you would have to show or prove it in a correct manner first, before someone can say if it’s true or not.

      “Zhuk-E — there’s contrary evidence on this”
      Then why don’t you share it? Can you prove that the Russian Air Force or Navy currently operates a single Su 35, Su 34, Su 30SM, Mig 29 or Mig 29K with the Zhuk-AE (not E)? If you can’t, on what do you base you claim that the Zhuk-AE is ready and proven?

      ” that India is only sinking deeper into a military dependency relationship with all suppliers.”
      True, but then how can you make a claim that the US parts in EF are a problem and still trying to sell the LCA as a non problematic alternative? It is neither an alternative to an MMRCA in operational terms and not even more prone for sanction and restrictions. You might want to check some older reports that came up, when we procured the US engines for LCA MK2, which stated that the US wanted to restrict the operations of LCA in certain areas. Do you think the same would possible with the Rafale or EF?
      I fully share your view that we need to do something about the overdependance, but we have to be realistic as well. The only reason why LCA needs foreign engines is, because our own engine development failed! The only need why the MK1 will use an Israeli radar is, because our own developments are not even close to the required standards and we are talking about a puls doppler radar here, the technology that you called “qualitatively it falls way below even a PESA radar”. That alone should make you think shouldn’t it? When we can not even a 4th generation radar and dependent on Israelis, Russians and French to get them instead, how realistic is it to be less dependent? The fact is, even after decades of indigenous developments, we are still at very basic stages in aircraft design, radar or engine developments. We have made good progress on avionics, EW, materials and coatings, but that’s a start only. So that’s a reality we must accept and try to change by improving ourselfs, not by falling into chest bumping and blindly hyping indigenous developments.
      LCA will be a reasonably good fighter, nowhere close to the MMRCAs, therefor we must focus on how to replace the foreign parts of LCA first, before we can think about how to be less dependent on foreign fighters! On the helicopter side we did exactly that with the Dhruv. The early versions included a lot of foreign stuff and we constantly reduced that and replaced them with indigenous techs. Today we use that experiance to re-design it to Rudra, further develop it to LCH and develop a whole new LUH on our own.

      Btw, the myth that China is developing all on their own and we have to do it like them is just silly! Check their military helicopter fleet, most of them licence productions from Europe or Russia. Their Z10 combat helicopter, designed by Kamov and even after years of developments and spending far larger ammounts of money than we do, they still are dependent on Russia to sell them all kinds of aircraft engines. There is a difference in producing something and developing something. China is undeniably excellent in producing, but lack far behind Russia or the west in actual developing, because money alone won’t make up experience and know how!

      • @sancho — The issue then boils down to which supplier can be more trusted not to cutoff spares and other support in crises and, from evidence, that would appear to be Russia. In which case, my solution for the depleting fighter squadrons problem of off the shelf buys of Su-30s, MiG-29Ms, and faster induction of the Tejas would appear to be the best bet, especially if the cost is also a factor! Should India invest in the Rafale — a humungous money drain compared to the Russian alternative (that, albeit, the IAF brass is not enamoured of).

        Re: Zhuk-AE Phazotron AESA — was first tested in 2005 and on the MiG-35 testbed, etc. and will soon begin to outfit Russian planes, including the Indian FGFA. See In parallel to the Indian effort at home, a project to jointly develop a version of this for retrofitment on Su-30MKIs may be a far more economical option to buying the Rafale for its AESA. The French are possibly the worst in terms of extracting monies but not delivering on contractual obligations and need to be avoided like the plague.

      • Sancho says:

        “The issue then boils down to which supplier can be more trusted not to cutoff spares and other support in crises and, from evidence, that would appear to be Russia. ”

        Now you are trying to divert from your own point, since you were not arguing for Russia as a safe option, but against the US parts in the EF! So if you are against US parts, you can’t agrue at the same time for a more vulnerable LCA or Jags, that’s a simple fact. So you can’t selectively use the arguments for the EF only.

        “Zhuk-AE Phazotron AESA — was first tested in 2005 and on the MiG-35 testbed, etc. and will soon begin to outfit Russian planes, including the Indian FGFA. ”

        So you can’t prove your earlier claim that the Zhuk-AE is ready developed and proven today, because there are no operational version in the Russian forces, not even ordered yet. And it’s plain wrong that Russian planes or even FGFA with get the Zhuk-AE soon, because the Russian only aim on ordering it with new Mig 35 orders in the coming years, besides that Pak Fa and FGFA will uses an AESA developed by Tikhomirov Scientific Research Institute, the manufacturer of the BARS and IRBIS-E radar and not Phazotron. You again claiming factually wrong things here!

        Wrt the RBE 2 AESA radar, you could simply have checked the Thales website:

        Active transmit / Receiver modules and exciter / Receiver
        • MMIC/GaAs technologies

        GaAs not GaN! Thales just received the funds to study a further developed RBE 2 AESA and that is meant to have GaN chips.

      • True, Tejas, Jaguar are vulnerable to US spares-servicing cutoff. But why increase the numbers of grounded aircraft by buying EF? Further, LCA being a home product, with GOI will and no escape routes to IAF, it can be fully indigenized. Its other problems apart, the Kaveri engine still developed 81 kN of thrust on the test bed — that’s a start. China too has not succeeded in producing a single engine indigenously. Am a one note canary on this, but we have to become fully self-reliant in armaments and we should achieve this aim by begging, borrowing, and stealing.

        The problem with Rafale is the extortionate costs despite Dassault managing with loopholes in the tendering process and active IAF brass’help to nevertheless be L1 and win the tender, and the fact that the French, after pocketing the money, never deliver on tech whatever TOT contractual obligations.

        Re: Zhuk-AE AESA radar — it will soon be on MiG-35 and, per a source, will outfit the “super 30” version of the Sukhoi India is buying. So, it’s more accessible than you make out.

  11. vistasbharat says:

    More articles detailing the problems in German defence industry. The eruofighter is not in good shape:
    German defence ministry and arms industry come under fire
    Germany is having difficulty with the combat readiness of fighter “Typhoon”

    • Sancho says:

      “Germany is having difficulty with the combat readiness of fighter “Typhoon”

      Because of the same problems in the MoD that India is facing too, delayed and wrong spare supply policy.

      • I have called you for debate on tejas in indiandefenceforum’s tejas thread, at least four times to expose your lies on tejas. You haven’t responded at all.

        Anyway we all know TOT is useless because no one will part with their core tech developed over twenty years of R&D and to see it end in the hand of potential future competitor.

        and setting 30 ton class as the basic parameter is the dead giveaway in MMRCA tender motivations.

        They could have set conditions based on technology, why set condition based on weight?

        What if a 30 ton plus weight fighter has better capability and lesser operating cost than a sub 30 ton weight fighter ?

  12. LCA’s vulnerability on account of US GE-404 engine will be a short lived one, There is news from Saurav jha’s blog saying that DRDO has developed single crystal blade tech crucial for kaveri.

    And within a decade we can surely develop engine tech to replace both the Ge-404 in tejas mk1 and Ge-414 in tejas mk2. then tejas will become almost totally indian tech with no sanctions bottleneck.

    chinese too are going in the same way, they are devloping j-20 and J-31 with Russian engines and will replace them with WS series engines once the development is complete.

    but as far as rafale or typhoon is concerned our dependence on sanction prone suppliers will be permanent.

    that is the crucial difference between US parts on tejas and french,US or european parts on rafale or typhoon.

  13. Bharath Karnard sir, The 8:29 PM timed post by me is a reply for Sancho , I misplaced it under your name. SO please delete it.

  14. vistasbharat says:

    We also are working owards fully indigenous technology through the High Tech Defence Innovation Forum.

  15. vistasbharat says:

    Et tu, Airbus.

    Airbus to Cut Dassault Stake as Jet Sales to Help Stock
    By Andrea Rothman – Oct 8, 2014
    Airbus Group NV (AIR) is preparing to reduce its stake in Dassault Aviation SA (AM) by almost half, selling shares to institutional investors and back to Dassault in a transaction valued at about 2 billion euros ($2.52 billion).
    The European planemaker is exploring opportunities to sell because the U.S. economy, the largest driver of the business-jet market, is rebounding, suggesting demand for aircraft will pick up, Marwan Lahoud, the head of strategy at Airbus Group, said by phone yesterday. The Dassault family controls the company with a stake of about 55.5 percent.
    “Our preferred route is to place some of the shares on the market and combine that with Dassault buying some of the shares,” Lahoud said. “Dassault’s a well-managed company and should be interesting to institutional investors who like corporate jets.”
    Airbus owns 46.3 percent of the French maker of Falcon luxury corporate planes and combat jets that it inherited via one of its predecessor companies more than a decade ago from the French government. Airbus and Dassault have not reaped synergies in working together and Airbus has held the shares as a financial investment until now, with the company saying in July that a sale would be just a question of timing.
    Combat Aircraft
    Dassault gets about 70 percent of sales from corporate jets, and the rest from combat aircraft including the Rafale. Airbus competes in war planes as part of its role in the Eurofighter Typhoon programs, which it co-produces with BAE Systems Plc (BA/) and Finmeccanica SpA. (FNC)
    Dassault Aviation shareholders last month approved the purchase and cancellation of as much as 10 percent of total stock, at a maximum price of 1,200 euros a share. The company hasn’t specified any date for purchasing the shares.
    Airbus said it has hired Bank of America Corp., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Rothschild to assist with the sale.
    To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Rothman in Toulouse at
    To contact the editors responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at Kim McLaughlin, John Bowker

  16. Sancho says:

    “True, Tejas, Jaguar are vulnerable to US spares-servicing cutoff. But why increase the numbers of grounded aircraft by buying EF?”
    Maybe because IAF and MoD doesn’t fear sanctions anymore, but by the fact that the EF has only minor parts that are from the US, claiming it would be grounded is simply baseless.

    “LCA being a home product, with GOI will and no escape routes to IAF, it can be fully indigenized.”
    In more than a decade maybe, but you keep ignoring that most of the key techs are foreign made, bit it US, Israeli, French or British. So there is a lot to indigenise over time, just as we did with Dhruv over the years to the current level.

    “Zhuk-AE AESA radar — it will soon be on MiG-35 and, per a source, will outfit the “super 30″ version of the Sukhoi India is buying. So, it’s more accessible than you make out.”

    Well at least you admit now that it’s not operational proven now, but you still confuse being “offered” with “selected”. The Zhuk AE is offered for the Mig 35, but that doesn’t mean the Russians will order it. Just as the Zhuk AE offered for the MKI upgrade, but so is the BARS PESA upgrade and a later additional upgrade with a derivate of the FGFA radar, but IAF hasn’t selected any option for the upgrade yet. You might want to check the Russian Take Off Magazine from July this year, with very interesting interviews on the above:

  17. vistasbharat says:

    Interesting, and not to be ignored: Rafale can be shot down like ‘mosquitoes by Chinese-made Sukhoi’: Russian envoy:

  18. Kvkolal says:

    Dear Mr Karnad, the age old adage saying half truths are worse than utter falsehoods is certainly applicable to the above article of yours. Its full of half truths and mixes politics with technical issues probably with the sole aim of distorting the issue of MMRCA for the IAF. Heres why:
    First, comparison with Bofors..It only seems to be intended to put in fear of the unknown consequences in the govt. That the Bofors was technically superior and proved itself admirably seems to be of no concern in the article.
    Second, CBI investigation into MMRCA choice. If the CBI is competent to assess technical issues and choice of weapon systems to be inducted.. Why do we need the armed forces at all?! You seem to be again trying to put in fear of something untoward here.
    Third, article says MMRCA concept is synonymous with diversifying supply sources. I would expect the background research, if there was any, would have looked at the current IAF inventory. This would have shown that the IAF already has always had a multi sourced inventory. Why should MMRCA be aimed specifically towards diversifying sources once again? One fails to understand!
    Fourth, How does ToT determine a weapon system? By that logic, operational considerations or warfighting capibility should not matter as much as the ToT. Hard to agree with this logic.
    Fifth, the article quotes Der Spiegal. I would request you to please read the said article with some technical help. All contemporary Combat Aircraft are unstable and since the ejection system is safety critical, with serious flaws the ac would not be airworthy at all. Perhaps the design development and certification process is not clearly understood. Remember despite the rant of major faults and observations, the
    Typhoon continues to be the main stay of the european airborne. More nations are considering the Typhoon than any other ac today. Surely something does not gel here!
    Lastly, be it AESA or PESA, the article does not demonstrate any understanding of the difference or technical issues associated. So the technical and capibility issues end up muddled with politics and corruption allegations. From a think tank looking at Policy matters, Surely the readers deserve better!

    • I pointed out the reasons for CBI investigation because the same CAS is implicated in the Augusta Westland deal. So there’s a pattern here (unless of course you don’t see it). I cannot keep going over the same issues that I have tackled over the years every time I write a piece on military-related issues. To be blunt, MMRCA is a spurious concept IAF dreamed up to get Western (read French) aircraft, and to make this go down easier with GOI brought in the diversification issue. That the sheer diversity of aircraft in IAF inventory has created a logistics nightmare especially exacerbated in time of crises is a truism. The reason TOT matters is because left to IAF India’d be perennially importing aircraft — which is unacceptable. The point about Typhoon in European services proves precisely my view that countries investing in a combat aircraft program will damn well make a go of it — whatever its flaws, which are worked out in service. It is treatment that IAF never accorded the Marut Mk-II thereby killing it, and which it has been unwilling to accord Tejas. Try not to get lost in the technicalities of AESA/PESA but look at the larger picture and why the indigenous AESA under development is not being propelled with the requisite urgency.

      • kvkolal says:

        I again reiterate what I said: Agusta deal has nothing to do with MMRCA. The CAS may have been the same..the matter has no relation. Ref my first point-you are politicising.
        The basis on which you inferred the MMRCA being a spurious concept is not clear. Your reasons are definitely only political and conspiratorial rather than technical merits. Of what use is a ToT if the technology provided is obsolete? MMRCA are fourth gen with many 5th Gen technologies in them. Which country that has invested 20y+ of D&D effort would be willing to give India a ToT? For instance the latest Engine technology we dont have? How does Typhoon prove your point?The flaws you have stated exist do not and the countries that invested in Typhoon possess a world class combat aircraft and not the technology..for instance the flight control system isdeveloped by BAe and they own the IPR for that. Eurojet is a consortium as is ADS which owns the design. The partner countries collectively own the design for the variant in service of their air force. No single country owns the technology or recd a ToT. As regards the AESA, I am afraid my points stays. Without grasp of the technicalities one cannot and should not pass judgements. An indigenous AESA programme exists but have we done even a conventional radar and certified it?! Sadly no. Urgency or not, what is reality has to be accepted. Patriotism or hope cannot be the basis for national defence. If the nation possessed the capability, then armed forces care little where it is made. Case in point are the many vehicles used in the armed forces. These days few vehicles are of imported origin..even specialist vehicles are either made in India or made by India. You could do a case study of this…ofcourse if you have clarifications you can always get in touch…..

  19. RC says:

    Mr. Karnad, Looking at the recent news, it appears that GoI has pretty much decided on Rafale. So, your advice wasn’t considered. So what happens to the LCA now? – Another project and the know-how down the drain?

    It’s not my case to argue that DRDO is an epitome of excellence, but considering that they achieved at least LCA, why not make better use of it. If LCA doesn’t fit the bill for an MMRCA, why not use the knowledge gained through LCA and come up with a A-10 type close air support jet which can be deployed along North West, North and North East, because bring up the infrastructure along the Indo-China border will take a decade or more?

    NDA-II announced that they’ll build border roads parallel to the Indo-China border. But then, geographical challenges in many areas are immense….some news reports suggest, Japan has excused itself from border road projects in AP.

    It’s said that doctrines are developed around the available technologies, but then Considering that the challenges for infrastructure are immense why not develop a doctrine, of course secretly, around a presumed possible fighter jet from DRDO on time. Developing a doctrine and putting it in place takes time, so in the meantime Work with DRDO (which the IA and IAF hardly do, unlike the IN) to fine-tune the plane and the doctrine, once the plane is ready, produce it in large numbers and deploy close to borders.

    Moreover an A-10 type jet won’t be costly & when deployed in large numbers will seriously alter China’s Escalation calculus as such jets are capable of destroying their tanks and big guns more effectively than Indian Tanks or heavy guns could do.

    The presence of close air support jets and a well established close air support doctrine in the IA should deter China from sabre rattling along the border.

    In that sense, India’s military exercise with US should concentrate on this aspect of Close air support, what lessons they learnt, etc.

    – RC

  20. Shail says:

    “Try not to get lost in the technicalities of AESA/PESA but look at the larger picture and why the indigenous AESA under development is not being propelled with the requisite urgency…”

    Well well well…..really? Thats your reply to being dead wrong about the facts?
    The indigenous AESA ….try “Unicorn” ( hint: imaginary animal…)
    The IAF conspiracy theory that you are selling in so many articles etc is all bunkum..There is no one man EVER in any system as huge, unwieldy and convoluted as our esteemed procurement process, who can influence or guide a process, it also beyond the bounds of imagination to see hundreds of IAF, MoD, DRDO, HAL etc officials who are part of the file movement to ever see eye to eye…a conspiracy involving all of these is pure bunkum..

    Also the accused CAS that you keep referring to ..” NewsFlash” .He’s been exonerated.
    Also…Please do read the DPP once at least please. please, before these blind sort of sweeping statements you make. The ultimate power for every purchase is with MoD, RM and above and so are the checks and balances, which most definitely are NOT part of the services at all.
    So are the men and women who negotiate these complex contracts. The services are kept out. ( For obvious reasons..)
    So you may want to re-check many of your observations. Wikipedia is a “Secondary / tertiary ” source, Dont disparage people who have years of actual field experience.

    And yes, I totally agree we must be self reliant. But …that requires integrity in education, recruiting the very best for R&D , getting private cos on board, Setting up some genuine competition to the OFBs and PSUs , world class infrastructure for research and some real accountability. i.e. programmes which are interminable delayed .. call for severe punitive action on all concerned..even if they have retired ( many more such steps) Same for ppl who gave wrong advice..
    What say?

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