Finally, the cat is out of the bag, so to speak! The Indian bigwigs have given the nod to the Air Force to float the tender (RFP) for 126 fighter aircraft. In the fray for the Indian order are the American F-16 and the F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Russian MiG-35, the French Rafale, the European Eurofighter and the Swedish Gripen. We have also included the specifications of the French Rafale below. The IAF is likely to float the RPF by the end of July 2207.

So now the sparring will start in right earnest. However, the acquisition process is likely to be long and stringent and a timeframe of 5 years before the first aircraft enters India is being projected. The MOD press release had this to say:

"The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by the Defence Minister Shri AK Antony has cleared the process for the procurement of 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force. During its meeting here today, the DAC debated various issues related to the initial purchase, transfer of technology, licensed production and life time maintenance support for the 126 MMRCA and gave the final go-ahead for the project.

In pursuant to the recent assurance given by the Defence Minister for an early issue of the much awaited Request for Proposal (RFP) for the 126 fighter jets, the Ministry of Defence and Indian Air Force officers have been working overtime to scrutinize all aspects of the RFP. In view of the size and operational importance of the likely purchase, the criteria for selecting the final MMRCA contender from amongst some of the best combat aircraft offered by American, Russian and European companies, has been fine tuned. The RFP would contain a selection model that would involve an exhaustive evaluation process as detailed in the Defence Procurement Procedures 2006.

The proposals from the likely contenders would first be technically evaluated by a professional team to check for compliance with IAFs operational requirements and other RFP conditions. Extensive field trials would be carried out to evaluate the performance. Finally, the commercial proposal of the vendors, short-listed after technical and field evaluations, would be examined and compared. The aircraft are likely to be in service for over 40 years. The vendors are required to provide a life time support and performance based warranty for the aircraft. MoD officials have confirmed that great care has been taken to ensure that only determinable factors, which do not lend themselves to any subjectivity, are included in the commercial selection model. The selection would be transparent and fair.

The DAC has approved that a majority of the MMRCA would be produced in India under transfer of technology. The vendor finally selected would also b e required to undertake offset obligations in India. It is expected that the ToT and offset contracts would provide a great technological and economic boost to the indigenous defence industries, which would include DPSUs, RURs and other eligible private sector industries. Foreign vendors would be provided great flexibility in effecting tie-up with Indian partners, for this purpose.

There are three guiding principles for this procurement scheme. First, the operational requirements of IAF should be fully met. Second, the selection process should be competitive, fair and transparent, so that best value for money is realized. Lastly, Indian defence industries should get an opportunity to grow to global scales."

Please send your comments to us at idc1@ispone.net.

Comments. Click here to read the comments


General Charcteristics

Power Plant





Crew: 1 or 2
Length: 15.96 m (52 ft 5 in)
Wingspan: 10.95 m (35 ft 11 in)
Height: 5.28 m (17 ft 4 in)
Wing area: 50 m (540 ft)
Empty weight: 11 000 kg (24,250 lb)
Loaded weight: 15 550 kg (34,280 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 23 500 kg (51,809 lb)

Powerplant: 2 Eurojet EJ200 afterburning turbofans, 60 kN dry; 90 kN with afterburner (13,500 lbf; 20,250 lbf) each

Maximum speed: Mach 2.0+, 2390 km/h at high altitude; Mach 1.2, 1470 km/h at sea level; (1,480 mph; 915 mph) supercruise Mach 1.3+ at altitude with typical air-to-air armament
Range: 1390 km (864 mi)
Service ceiling: 18 000 m (60,000 ft)
Rate of climb: 255 m/s (50,000 ft/min)
Wing loading: 311 kg/m (63.7 lb/ft)
Thrust/weight: 1.18

Gun: 1x 27 mm Mauser BK-27 cannon
Air-to-air missiles: AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-132 ASRAAM, AIM-120 AMRAAM, IRIS-T and in the future MBDA Meteor
air-to-ground missiles: AGM-84 Harpoon, AGM-88 HARM, ALARMs, Storm Shadow (AKA "Scalp EG"), Brimstone, Taurus, Penguin and in the future AGM Armiger
bombs: Paveway 2, Paveway 3, Enhanced Paveway, JDAM
Laser designator, e.g. LITENING pod



Crew: 1
Length: 56 ft 0 in (17.1 m)
Wingspan: 40 ft 0 (12.3 m)
Height: 15 ft 4 in (4.7 m)
Wing area: 400 ft (38 m)
Airfoil: NACA 65A005 mod root, 65A003.5 mod tip
Empty weight: 24,700 lb (11,200 kg)
Loaded weight: 37,150 lb (16,850 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 51,550 lb (23,400 kg)

Powerplant: 2 General Electric F404-GE-402 turbofans, 17,751 lbf (79 kN) each

Maximum speed: Mach 1.8 (1,127 mph, 1,814 km/h) at 36,100 ft (11,000 m)
Combat radius: 330 mi (290 nm, 20535 km) on hi-lo-lo-hi mission
Ferry range: 2,070 mi (1,800 nm, 3,330 km)
Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,000 m)
Rate of climb: 50,000 ft/min (254 m/s)
Wing loading: 93 lb/ft (450 kg/m)
Thrust/weight: >0.95

Guns: 1 20 mm (0.787 in) M61 Vulcan internal gatling gun, 578 rounds
Hardpoints: 9: 2 wingtip, 4 underwing, and 3 fuselage with a capacity of 13,700 lb (6,220 kg) of missiles, rockets, bombs, fuel tanks, and pods,with provisions to carry combinations of:
Air-to-air: AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-7 Sparrow, IRIS-T
Air-to-ground: AGM-45 Shrike, AGM-65 Maverick, AGM-88 HARM, SLAM-ER, JSOW, Taurus missile
Anti-ship: AGM-84 Harpoon
Bombs: CBU-87 cluster, CBU-89 gator mine, CBU-97 CEM, Paveway, JDAM, Mk 80 series, nuclear bombs MK 20 Rockeye cluster, mines.
APG-73 radar




Crew: 1-2
Length: 14.1 m (46 ft 3 in)
Wingspan: 8.4 m (27 ft 7 in)
Height: 4.5 m (14 ft 9 in)
Wing area: 25.54 m (274.9 ft)
Empty weight: 6,620 kg (14,600 lb)
Loaded weight: 8,720 kg (19,200 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 14,000 kg (31,000 lb)

Powerplant: 1 Volvo Aero RM12 (GE404) afterburning turbofan, 54 kN dry, 80 kN with afterburner (12,000 lbf / 18,100 lbf)
Wheel track: 2.4 m (7 ft 10 in)

Maximum speed: Mach 2
Range: Combat radius of action with air-to-surface and enhanced self-defence weapons: >1200km (>650Nm) (750 mi)
Service ceiling: 15,000 m (50,000 ft)
Rate of climb: m/s (ft/min)
Wing loading: 341 kg/m (70,3 lb/ft)
Thrust/weight: 0.94

Gun: 1x 27 mm Mauser BK-27 cannon
6x AIM-9 Sidewinder (Swedish designation Rb-74) or IRIS-T (Swedish designation Rb-98)
4x AIM-120 AMRAAM (Swedish designation Rb-99), BAe Skyflash (Swedish designation Rb-71 Skyflash), MICA or Meteor
AGM-65 Maverick (Swedish designation Rb-75), KEPD 150, or various other laser-guided bombs, rocket pods.
RBS-15 Mark 2 air-to-sea anti-ship missile
Bombkapsel 90 cluster bomb

MiG 35



Crew: One
Length: 62 ft 4 in (19 m)
Wingspan: 49 ft 10 in (15.2 m)
Height: ()
Empty weight: 33,069 lb (15,000 kg)
Loaded weight: 76,059 lb (34,500 kg)

Powerplant: 2 Klimov RD-33 OVT afterburning turbofans, 18,285 lbf (8,300 kgf) each

Maximum speed: 1,521 mph (2,448 km/h)
Range: 2,485 mi (4,000 km)
Service ceiling: 62,000 ft (18,900 m)
Rate of climb: 60,000 ft/min (~300 m/s)

1x 30 mm GSh-30-1 cannon with 150 rounds
Eight Missiles (Details to be confirmed)
Up to 2000 lbs of bombs (Details to be confirmed)
Phazotron N-109 radar

(Some (or all) of its specifications are missing. If you have a source, you can help  by adding them.)




Crew: 12
Length: 15.27 m (50.1 ft)
Wingspan: 10.80 m (35.4 ft)
Height: 5.34 m (17.4 ft)
Wing area: 45.7 m (492 ft)
Empty weight: 9,060 kg (20,000 lb)
Useful load: 9,500 kg (21,000 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 24,500 kg (54,000 lb)

Powerplant: 2 SNECMA M88-2 turbofans

Maximum speed: >Mach 1.8 (2,130 km/h, 1,320 mph)
Range: 1,800 km (970 nm, 1,100 mi)
Service ceiling: 18,000 m (60,000 ft)
Rate of climb: >305 m/s [7] (60,000 ft/min)
Wing loading: 326 kg/m (83 1/3 lb/ft)
Thrust/weight: 1.13

Guns: 1 30 mm (1.18 in) GIAT 30/719B cannon with 125 rounds
AIM-9 Sidewinder or
MBDA Meteor or
Magic II
MBDA Apache or
AM 39 Exocet or
ASMP nuclear missile
Thales RBE2 radar
Thales SPECTRA electronic warfare system.
Thales/SAGEM OSF (Optronique Secteur Frontal) infrared search and track system.

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Mary Anderson (andersoncr1@hotmail.com)

In consideration of the IAF decision NOT to split the purchase, I would like to change my "vote" to the French Rafale. Harsh Vallabh is on target with his assessment regarding the Eurofighter, F-16, and F-18. Rafale is the only fighter
manufactured by a nation unlikely to impose sanctions and/or delay IAF deliveries in preference to earlier orders. Also, IAF should be able to demand that Dassault "sweeten the pot" with extras (like technology transfer), since this huge order would definitely put Rafale in the hunt for future orders around the world.

Viva la France!

Harsh Vallabh, Koyla Vihar, Burdwan Compoud, Ranchi, Jharkhand, India. Telephone=9835376191 (harsh963@gmail.com)

This is a very damned sitiuation, which aircraft should india go for? My views are mentioned below:

1. Eurofighter - Very advanced 5th generation fighter with a-to-a and air to ground roles. It is very impressive. Against - If India goes for it the first aircraft would reach at least in 2015,  because many countries (about 5) have till now ordered for about 550 pieces and the production rate is slow and delayed. Eurofighter is too expensive at about Rs 450 crore/aircraft.

2. MiG-35 - IAF has experience with MiG-29 as well. MiG-35 has got AESA radar. It is much comparable to Eurofighter.

3. Rafale - Its a perfect choice. Its the best of all in the race. Its service ceiling is 80,000 ft. It has good engines and its radar has look down-shoot down capability. Its my thinking that India should go for 126+70 more Rafales. If India purchases about 200 Rafales the balance in regional airpower should experience a tilt.

4. F-18 - It has only one good thing i.e. AESA radar.

5. F-16 and Gripen are poor material, completely outdated.


Mary Anderson (andersoncr1@hotmail.com)

IAF should opt for a mix of Saag Grippen and Mig 35, to optimize purchasing power. This would also provide another strategic advantage, as noted below.

Mig 35 is an equal or better to any aircraft IAF will face now or in the future, especially if equipped with Israeli electronics. Payload and range provide ability to strike deep into enemy territory with modern weapons. However, this aircraft is dependent on fixed airbases, which would become prime targets in war.

Enter the Saab Grippen, which could be stationed at numerous mobile sites around the country, changing places on a regular basis to confound enemy intelligence. Grippen can operate from normal paved roadways, and only requires a small ground crew for full maintenance and re-arming even in combat. I envision Grippen as "home protector", assuring the Mig 35's are not destroyed on the ground so they can deal a devastating blow to the enemy. Grippens will take on attackers, and remain "survivable" in any conflict.

F-18's are old technolgy that US wants to dump before end of production run.

Eurofighter is too expensive, and faces production delays and cost over-runs.

Kuldip S Chager, 21882 E.Lake Ave, Tel: 03-947-5386, Fax=720-862-2515, (kchr@comcast.net)

While we are around western nations, why  don't we use 32F (SU30) engine and Redesign Mig27, Mirage, even LCA? Even LCA will be Mach 2.5 PLUS. Even Russia will colaborate. Single engine SU30. We have to try our resources.

Mayank Kumar Singh (mayanksingh@fastmail.fm)

Considering all other options the MiG-35 looks like the aircraft India should go for. It is both efficient and affordable and also configured for future upgrades. To top it all they are also offering Active Phased Array Radar on it now. A force of 126 MiG 35 would form a potent core of future IAF power. Americans are sanction prone and European machines are very costly if you consider the Gripen its almost like the LCA. In all the MiG is the clear winner. IAF shouldnt buy American jets just to appease them.

Shashank Sinha (shanksinha@rediffmail.com)

It would be really very unfortunate if the IAF goes in for the Eurofighter, they might as well have selected the F-22 Raptor! This is a stopgap order and the only sensible thing to do is stick with the types already in service. IAF already operates more than half a dozen different combat types so what is point of adding yet another new type to the logistical nightmare. A fighter like any other weapon system requires a logistical and maintenance
infrastructure that makes or breaks it.

The best bet unquestioningly remains the MiG-35. It is a four and half gen fighter with excellent capabilities and he maintenance grid already exists and so does pilot and crew familiarity. Even if you talk pure performance none of the contenders can hold off a modern fulcrum!

Manish (monishmanwani@yahoo.com)

126 FIGHTER AIRCRAFT DEAL: Buying 126 aircraft which include the EUROFIGHTER, F-18, GRIPEN or MiG 35 is BULL CRAP. If you see the USA IS WORKING ON PUTTING THEIR F-35 AND F22 FIGHTER TO REPLACE THE F18 AND F16 . India should instead buy 86 aircraft and then focus rest of the money for developing a 5TH GENERATION aircraft possibly with Russia or individually, because Australia and Singapore will have their F35'S SOON and China is working on their 5th generation aircraft.

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