India shops for combat aircraft at Farnborough

By Venkata Vemuri, IANS
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

FARNBOROUGH - Indian defence authorities, led by Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju, are looking to see the international response to some of the latest multi-role combat aircraft on display at the Farnborough Air Show here which are being evaluated by India for upgrading its air force.

Pallam Raju is leading the Indian delegation, which includes Defence Production Secretary Raj Kumar Singh and the chief of the Southern Air Command, Air Marshal S. Mukerji.

Actual or close versions of four of the six latest combat aircraft that have completed trials in India and in the country of manufacture are on display at the air show. They are the naval version of the JAS 39 Gripen NG/IN of SAAB, the Swedish aerospace company; the Eurofighter Typhoon made by a European consortium; the F/A-18IN Super Hornet of Boeing and the F-16IN Super Viper of American giant Lockheed Martin.

The Indin Air Force (IAF) had launched the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) competition for supply of 126 jets. Eighteen will be purchased in fly-away condition and 108 of them will eventually be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The defence ministry has allocated roughly 5.8 billion pounds ($10 billion) for the purchase of these aircraft, which has been touted as India’s single largest defence deal ever.

Six aircraft bid for the contract. The remaining two are the Rafale of the French manufacturer Dassault and the Russian Mikoyan MiG-35.

In May 2009, the IAF completed the technical evaluation of all the six fighter jets. Their flight evaluation began in August last year and the evaluation of the last jet, the Gripen, was completed this March.

The Indian defence ministry requested an updated bid in April. The IAF is to complete an evaluation report on the six fighters, probably this month, and the defence ministry will then begin to shortlist them based on the IAF’s evaluations.

Of the four fighter jets on display at the air show, the Gripen IN, a version of the Gripen NG (Next Generation), has increased fuel capacity, higher payload, increased combat range and endurance and super-cruise capability. SAAB International has proposed to India the transfer of technology if Gripen wins the MRCA and make India “an independent manufacturer” of its own fighter jets.

Boeing’s offer is the Super Hornet variant named F/A-18IN. It will include Raytheon’s Apg-79 AESA radar which sharply increases the pilot’s “situational awareness”. In August 2008, Boeing submitted an industrial participation proposal to India describing partnerships with companies in India.

The Eurofighter Typhoon is a twin-engine canard-delta wing - the wing platform designed as a triangle - multi-role aircraft designed and built by a consortium of three companies: Alena Aeronautica of Italy, BAE Systems of Britain and European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), formed after the merger of three aeronautics corporations of France, Germany and Spain.

The F-16IN Super Viper, a variant of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, is a multi-role jet fighter developed by Lockheed Martin. It is a dogfighter with numerous innovations including a frameless bubble canopy for better visibility, a side-mounted control stick to ease control while under high gravitational forces, and a reclined seat to reduce the effect of g-forces on the pilot. Its manufacturer has described the Indian variant as “the most advanced and capable F-16 ever”.

(Venkata Vemuri can be contacted at

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