An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 27 March 2005

Blaring masthead headlines in Indian, Pakistani and US papers on India’s Hindu New Year Day that is celebrated as Holi, referred to the telephone conversation President Bush had with PM Manmohan Singh and the overdue announcement of release of F 16s to Pakistan by the US government and simultaneously the clearance of F 18s and Nuclear plants for India. These are welcome moves because they signify a closer relationship, and albeit fuel the arms race in the sub continent. However, the commercial aspects deserve some scrutiny and we offer a professional’s view.

Separately we have posted on this site a reference to the Left partners of the UPA Government resenting undue close military cooperation with USA. The Russians will also now see competition in the nuclear field. India needs energy and Condoleezza Rice has scored brownie points by her visit and the news of this announcement must have been mentioned in confidence to her interlocutors. Indian bureaucrats and political leaders love to hear such news directly rather than from New York Times or Wall Street Journal and Condoleezza Rice was told so. Even if we do not buy these big-ticket items lets ‘get all the gen’ as they say in the Services.

F-16s and F-18s A Comparison

In 1974–76 the USAF ran a competition for a lightweight fighter. General Dynamics entered the YF-16 and Northrop entered the YF-17. Both were good aircraft. The USAF chose the YF-16, partly because it shared the same engine with their then favorite fighter, the F-15, which was already flying. Choosing the F-16 helped to reduce the cost of F-15s.

The US Navy liked the twin engine YF-17 and, after some modifications and the involvement of McDonnel Douglas, it became the F/A-18. Production was awarded to MDD, which was subsequently bought by Boeing. The Navy and the Marines were delighted with the plane and Malaysia and Australia operate the planes too. Meanwhile, Lockheed bought the F-16 plant of General Dynamics.

The basic technology of both F-16 and F-18 is of 1970s vintage. The F-16 is in the same class as the Mirage 2000, both in performance and cost. And now, the USAF has taken delivery of its last F-16. The line is being kept open only for international customers like UAE, which has the latest Block D, F-16s. See the story below and we reckon the F 18 will cost some $45m a piece and F 16 some $32m.

The US air force, navy and marine corps have already run a competition to replace the F-16, F-18 and AV-8 Harrier aircraft. Boeing and Lockheed entered their designs. Lockheed won the competition with their F-35 JSF (Joint Services Fighter). There are three versions F-35A, F-35B and F-35C. Details are available on the Lockheed Martin website. The UK had also opted for the plane and Singapore and others also funded the project. Britain joined the program in the early phases itself. A total of 11 countries are already in the program and many of them will get some work share. If the IAF and IN want to upgrade and modernise their fighter fleet with US aircraft, then the F-35 JSF is the appropriate aircraft, but the cost will be phenomenal.

"WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio. (AFPN) –– The general who was the F-16 System Program Office director here when the contract for the aircraft was awarded, delivered the Air Force's last F-16 Fighting Falcon on March 18. While the Lockheed Martin Aero plant in Fort Worth, Texas, will continue to produce F-16s for international coalition partners, this aircraft is the last of 2,231 F-16s produced for the Air Force, officials said. The first delivery was in 1978.

Brig. Gen. Jeff Riemer, now the director of operations at the Air Force Materiel Command headquarters here, flew the jet from the Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth to Shaw Air Force Base. "It seemed fitting for General Riemer to make this historic flight, and we were pleased that he was able to accept the invitation," said Col. Scott Jansson, Aeronautical Systems Center Fighter Attack Systems Wing's F-16 Systems Group commander.

For his part, General Riemer said that having flown the very first F-16B while stationed at Edwards AFB, he was delighted to have had the opportunity to fly the last F-16 produced for the Air Force.

“Today's F-16 has significant combat capabilities. This (version of the) jet has a new computer, multifunctional color displays, an advanced Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) interrogator, upgraded data link system and a new helmet with an automatic target-cueing system. It has been upgraded with the latest software and cutting-edge precision weapons. Although this is the last new F-16 expected to be produced for the (Air Force), the F-16 Systems Group continues to technically transform the existing fleet of more than 1,300 jets, enabling evolutionary weapons delivery capabilities through 2025 and making possible a smooth transition to the F-35, the world's premier multi-role fighter of the future," Col. Jansson said."

Commercial Atomic Energy Generation

Fifty years ago nuclear energy was considered the panacea for our future energy needs. However, the high environmental costs, especially the huge cost of closing down and entombing a nuclear plant after 40–50 years of operation, has changed everything. The developed world has practically discarded new commercial nuclear energy plants. India and China are the only two major countries where new commercial nuclear plants are being built.

It is only a question of time before India and China change their policies about commercial nuclear plants. So any offer by US of commercial nuclear plants is no substitute for the gas pipeline from Iran.

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