Rafale had the shortest run imaginable. With the Modi govt sobering up after the Paris high when the PM merely broached — did not commit — to a G2G deal to buy the Dassault product outright, GOI is backing off which, if true, is a welcome return to good sense. These are, in any case, the soundings one is getting in Delhi circles.
However, this is seen as an opportunity by the British govt and BAE — albeit a slim one — to edge in with the European consortium (EADS) fighter — Typhoon. Whether or not the German chancellor Angela Merkl initiated the gambit this time around, the fact is London is using the visit by the Deputy Chief of the UK Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach to push the proposal. A senior BAE representative in in Peach’s team and, as he told me at a dinner last night, has been given “15 minutes” with Parrikar later today.
The British spiel I heard yesterday was that Typhoon had 20% longer range, blah, blah (Peach), in what combat profile he didn’t say; and that BAE, according to its rep, would readily partner HAL, Reliance, or anybody else GOI wished it to join, in setting up a full production unit in India generating 20,000 jobs and producing 50% of the aircraft in the country, and some 13 Typhoons for immediate detachment from RAF for Indian duty to be replaced with new Eurofighters as they begin coming in off the Indian line. So, I asked the BAE chap whether the 50% Indian component in the Typhoon would be by weight or value. And he shut up. In essence this deal is marginally better in that the bulk of the aircraft production will be in India but with minimal TOT (of the kind mentioned above). With the RFP system scrapped, this too apparently would be on a G2G basis.
The BAE rep in turn asked me what would get Parrikar’s attention in his quarter hour with the defence minister. And I told him straight out that if BAE was really serious and if it had to have smidgeon of a chance, it’d have to part with the source codes and control laws so India can actually learn how to build advanced aircraft from the ground up to add to the invaluable experience garnered by Indian aircraft designers at ADA on the Tejas, and not put on the table yet another Meccano-license manufacture deal. If BAE, overnight rethinks its attitude on opening up to genuine TOT, who knows, it may just get a hearing from a BJP govt which is plainly confused and doesn’t know which way to go. Otherwise it’ll be another polite thankyou-goodbye episode, which is what I expect to happen.