Indian Air Force to get 110 Fighter Jets; Will it Suffice?

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Picture Courtesy: http://www.sputniknews.com

The Indian Air Force on Friday initiated a process to acquire 110 fighter jets. The IAF issued a Request for Information (RFI) for  $15 billion deal. It is considered to be the biggest defence deal. The fighter jets would jointly be produced by a foreign company in collaboration with an Indian company under ‘Make in India’ campaign. This will also give a big push to indigenous defence production capability.

Initially single engine fighter jets of American company Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Block 70 and Swedish company SAAB’s Gripen were the main contenders in the race to get $15 billion deal, but later Indian government asked the IAF to consider Boeing’s F-18 Super Hornet. During French President Emmanuel Marcon’s visit to India in March there were speculations that India would extend Rafale deal by announcing to procure more 36 Rafale jets. The Indian government still has not made any official announcement regarding this.

The IAF would get 85 single engine fighter jets and rest 25 would be twin engine fighter jets. Currently the Indian Air Force has 34 fighter jet squadrons against the authorized strength of 42 squadrons. Though the IAF would be getting 3 squadrons of Sukhoi 30-MKI, two Squadrons of Rafale, but by 2025 most of the squadron if MIG’s would get retired and Indigenous built Light Combat Aircraft Tejas has still not met the requirement of The Indian Air Force. Presently the IAF has 17 squadrons of various MIG fighter jets. So over the next 10 years the IAF would be requiring almost 300-400 fighter jets to attain its full strength.

Now the question arises that when can the Indian government close the deal of acquiring 110 fighter jets or will it take even time than Rafale deal? The second thing is that if in 2019 elections new government comes to power then what is the guarantee that this deal will continue in the same manner or the new government would scrap the old deal as happened in the case of Rafale deal? This would delay the deal of acquiring these jests. As we witnessed that a very big political controversy haunted the Rafele deal regarding the pricing of the jets, what would be the surety that no controversy would haunt this deal as it is much bigger deal that the Rafale deal?

Boeing’s Super Hornet F/A-18 for Indian Air Force?

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Picture Courtesy: http://www.commons.wikimedia.org

In the latest development Indian government has asked Indian Air Force (IAF) to consider twin engine Boeing Super Hornet F/A-18 E/F along with SAABs’s Gripen and Lockheed Martin’s F-16.

already talks are going on between Indian Navy and Boeing to finalise the deal of $8 billion (Approx) for the procurement of 57 fighter jets.

IAF needs almost needs 100 fighter jets to reduce the shortage. IAF has current strength of only 33 fighter squadrons which is the weakest in the four decades. And India’s indigenous build Light Combat Aircraft Tejas is still under development stage.

According to some media reports IAF wants government to issue Request of Information (RFI) in this regard to get the process of procurement started.

So Boeing’s Super Hornet F/A-18 E/F is in the contention of $15 billion deal. As reported by Reuters Boeing India President Pratyush Kumar said that Boeing committed to building the planes in India and had offered to help with India’s plans to develop its own advanced medium combat aircraft.

Super Hornet F/A-18 is already operational in United States (US) Navy.

The Boeing F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornet are twin-engine carrier-capable multirole fighter aircraft variants based on the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. The F/A-18E single-seat and F/A-18F tandem-seat variants are larger and more advanced derivatives of the F/A-18C and D Hornet.

Lets us look at some main features of Boeing Super Hornet :

  • The Super Hornet was first ordered by the U.S. Navy in 1992.
  • Super Hornet F/A – 18 E/F is equipped with touch sensitive control display with large multi-coloured liquid display for revealing tactical information to the pilot. In addition to this it has two monochrome display and one fuel display.
  • Length of this fighter jet is 18.31 metre with wingspan of 13.62 metre. Height of Super Hornet is 4.88 metre.
  • It has a wing area of 46.5 sq. m
  • Loaded weight capacity of super hornet is 21,320 Kg and take- off weight capacity is 29,937 Kg.
  • Super Hornet F/A – 18 E/F has 2X General Electric F 414-GE-400 turbofan engines. Each engine provides dry thrust of 62.3 KN and 97.9 KN thrust with afterburner.
  • It has 11 hardpoints for carrying ammunitions of varying size.
  • Super Hornet F/A – 18 E/F has maximum speed of 1.8 Mach or 1,190 Miles per hour.
  • Super Hornet has service ceiling of 50,000 feet and has rate of climb at 44,890 feet per minute.
  • It has standard armament of 20mm M61A2 Vulcan Gatling Gun with 578 20mm projectiles.
  • Ferry Range of Super Hornet is 1,800 nautical Miles with a combat radius of 390 nautical miles.

Will India buy 36 more Rafale Jets?

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Picture Courtesy : http://www.dnaindia.com

Controversy on the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets has not yet died and there have been reports that government is mulling over purchasing 36 more Rafale jets from France. The Congress on one hand accused Modi government of purchasing Rafale jets at higher cost causing a loss of Rs ‘12,000 Crore’ to the country, but on the other hand French government wants India to announce talks for purchasing 36 more Rafale jets. According to the report published in NDTV, French Defence Minister Florence Parly has written a letter to Nirmala Sitharaman on 26th February which indicates that French Government is keen in extending the Rafale deal with India. Indian government has not taken a final decision yet.

Other report published in Economic Times stated that French officials pitched for selling another batch of 36 Rafale fighter jets to India during the talks between Parly and Sitharaman.  Parly was in favour of extending the Rafale deal to strengthen defence ties between both the countries.

India will start receiving the first set of Rafale fighter jets from 2019.

France is also pitching on behalf of its defence supplier SAFRAN to develop combat aircraft engine in collaboration with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for India’s Light Combat Aircraft Tejas.

It will be interesting to see how things pan out over the period of time, whether government will purchase another set of 36 Rafale jets and intensifies political controversy or will play safe and avoid further purchase of Rafale fighter jets?

F-16 Block 70 or Gripen E for Indian Air Force

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Picture Courtesy: IndianAirforce.nic.in

Current strength of our Air force is 34 squadrons against the authorised strength of 42 squadrons. Initially Indian government signed to buy 126 Rafale Fighter jets from French Company Dassault Aviation.Out of 126, 18 jets were to be purchased in ‘ready to fly’ condition and rest 108 were to be manufactured in India, but after general election in 2014 when the NDA government came to power the entire deal was scrapped and fresh deal was signed to buy 36 in ‘ready to fly condition’

According to the report of Institute of Defence Studies and analysis which was made public in November 2017, out of 34 squadrons 11 squadrons have Sukhoi – 30 MKI. The MIGs will get retire by 2020, which means that almost 14 squadron will retire by 2020. We will get three new squadrons of Sukhoi – 30 MKI. So by the year 2020 Indian Air Force (IAF) will be left with only 23 squadrons which is far less than the authorised strength.  IAF will be getting two squadrons (36 Jets) of Rafale. Indigenous built Tejas is not that efficient to rely upon. Taking all this into consideration we need around 400 fighter jets to attain the full authorised strength.

To plug in the gap, The Indian Government prepares to issue global tender of worth $10 Million for single engine fighter jets. Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Block 70 and Sweden’s Gripen E are two leading competitors to get the tender.

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F-16 Block 70 ( Picture Courtesy: http://www.defenceupdates.in)

F-16 block 70 is the most advance variant of F-16 series. United States of America has wrapped up the production line in Fort Worth, Texas, to give way to F-35 Lightning II, a single-engine all-weather stealth multi-role fighter. The F-16s, will now be produced from Greenville, South Carolina. USA is ready to transfer the production line to India if Lockheed Martin gets the deal. Around 27 countries including Pakistan is using F-16 fighter jets, so India will become an exporter of this fighter jet which will put India into the centre-stage of defence production industry. Lockheed Martin is the largest Military production organisation, where as Gripen E is comparatively new in the field. But SAAB’s Gripen E is the most advance fighter jets in the modern times. It has also the lowest flight cost of $4,700 per hour as compared to F-16 block 70, which will costs around $7,700 per hour.

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Gripen E (Picture Courtesy: http://www.sputniknews.com)

SAAB has also agreed for 100% technology transfer, but SAAB owns only 30% of the technology. It will be a big deal if SAAB appeases other technology developers to share the technology.

India will get single supply chain in case of F-16 block 70 which is not in the case of Gripen E. this will be of great help in wartime situation. Secondly, easy availability of Spare parts of F-16.

If we look at the other side Gripen E is the most sensors packed fighter jet. SAAB has also offered to develop indigenous LCA Tejas and also offers Naval version of Gripen.

Our Government needs to close this deal quickly, so that our Air force should not fell short of fighter jets in the near future.

 

 

 

Rafale Deal Controversy: A political fight to demoralise our forces

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Congress launched fresh salvo on the government over the Rafale deal during the winter session of the parliament. Congress slammed the deal, terming it a scam of Rs 50,000 crore.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman rejected opposition’s demand to disclose the breakdown price of the Rafale deal.

Opposition refused to accept the reason given by the government. Congress president Rahul Gandhi took a swipe on the government and termed this deal as a scam and alleged Prime Minister Narendra Modi for personally getting this deal done.

During UPA government, deal of USD 12 billion which amounts to Rs 78,000 crore (approx.) was inked for 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), Rafale Fighter jets. Out of these 126 jets 18 were to be procured in ‘ready to fly’ condition and rest 108 fighter jets were to be produced in India by Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL). UPA government failed to conclude the deal before the elections 2014.

After coming to power NDA government scrapped the old deal and signed fresh deal to procure 36 fighter jets in ‘ready to fly’ condition for Euro 7.8 billion which amounts to Rs 59,000 crore (approx.). According to this new deal 75 percent Rafale fleet will always be operational as compared to UPA’s Rafale deal which was only 48 percent.

Congress also alleged that cost of each Rafale fighter jet rose to almost three times from Rs 526 crore to Rs 1,570 crore.

Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha said, “It is a very opaque government. It is absolutely astounding, if you read the agreement, secrecy clause applies only the issue of technology, intellectual property right. It cannot be applied to price. Price is in the public domain, after all it is a biding.”

Jha further added, “We are only asking the government for the breakdown of the cost. We were getting it for Rs 526 crore and they are paying Rs 1,500 crore. We want to know what government is hiding.”

Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) spokesperson Krishna Sagar Rao hits back at Congress. Speaking on the entire controversy, Rao said, “Rahul Gandhi and his party have hit a dead end. They are approaching elections with no issue against the government. No wonder the search for issue has redirected him to Rafale deal which is driven by his own government in 2005.” Clarifying government’s stand on the issue of confidentiality Rao said, “While the confidentiality argument and the overall choice of Rafale is made by the Congress regime. Government has nothing to hide. In fact UPA government had given the same answer when they were in power when the same issue was raised in the parliament.”

Opposition is also raising questions over the 50 percent offset deal between Dassault and Reliance Defence Ltd. Congress blamed PM Modi for favoring Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence Ltd. for getting Rs 30,000 crore deal as a Indian partner to Dassault  as Reliance has no expertise in this field.

Jha said, “Large section of those defence offset has been given to a private contractor and not to HAL. HAL is a public sector company with expertise and earlier also had working agreement with Dassault .The agreement was signed on 13th March 2014.”

Whereas BJP spokesperson Rao termed it as a part of ‘Make in India’ campaign to give boost to indigenous industries in defence sector. Rao said, “We wanted to ensure that Indian companies should get a fair chance to manufacture it locally and that applied to even defence sector.” Taking a jibe at congress Rao further added, “All these are global tenders and biding processes which are transparent and open and not made in family tight rooms like done in UPA regime.”

The deal signed by the NDA government capped inflation at 3.5 percent as compared to that of previous deal which was 3.9 percent.

Defence expert, Air Marshal (Retd.) Kapil Kak termed the entire controversy as political fight which will have negative consequences on armed forces. Air Marshal (Retd.) Kak said, “It is not that one deal is better or other deal is better, we are just comparing apple and oranges. In case of UPA Rafale deal it was mere speculation of what we could have got, but in case of the deal signed by NDA government we have proper contract with precise details of what we are getting out of the deal.”

Speaking on the issue of government not disclosing the breakdown price of each fighter jet, Air Marshal (Retd.) Kak said, “The government had entered confidentiality pact with the French government as France is also selling the same fighter jets to other countries.”

Now the question arises that if UPA government had concluded the deal, then there would have been any controversy?

Currently our Air Force is short of fighter jets. We need to have 42 squadrons of fighter jets but we have only 33 squadrons.

Our defence forces need modern technology and equipment to counter increasing threat on the borders instead of these controversies. We need to build morale of our defence forces, rather than fighting over a defence deal. Controversies like these will demoralise our forces.

We need to fulfil the gap of rest 90 fighter jets, as we are purchasing only 36 Rafale jets instead of 126 jets, but our leaders busy in questioning each other to satisfy their political motives.