QUORA DIARIES:THE IAF SINGLE ENGINE FIGHTER SAGA.

Come India Air Force day 2016, the Ex-Defense minister announced that the IAF shall go with another Single Engine fighter along with the LCA Mk1/1a to replace the aging Migs. An unofficial request was made to the American Lockheed Martin for F-16 and to Swedish SAAB for Gripen-E fighter jets.

But unlike other deals, the major clause for this deal were:

  1. Strategic Partnership: OEM has to collaborate with a Indian partner to form a JV company with OEM share of 49% in the JV and Indian partner 51% share in the JV.
  2. Transfer of Technology: The OEM has to give us some “Critical” technologies to India.

But lately there have been some twists in the said deal, Let’s have a look at them:


1.There is NO RFI for the said deal yet. Without this there will be formal initiation of deal.

2.GoI wants it to be not just single engine but MMRCA-2 kind of deal, to avoid unnecessary corruption allegations.

3. Even if deal happens today, it will take 3–4 years to set up the factory for a production run and by than means the last plane roll out after 8–10 years after contract is signed.

(Rude Awakening for F-16, Gripen: India May Opt for Twin-Engine Fighter Jets, Single engine fighter jet procurement hits air pocket, faces questions)

4. All deals are stuck on matter of ToT, LM has already denied it(Lockheed Martin to India : ‘Full transfer of tech in defence aviation is non-negotiable’ – Indian Defence Research Wing), SAAB has not much to give with american engine, Italian Radar and IRST, Israeli Cockpit and European weapon, Gripen indigenous content is 50–60 % as against 75% of our own LCA(Page 34: Lok sabha standing committee on defese: Report 31).

5. F-16 has completed all it’s orders, no more orders so far as all countries are now shifting towards either F-35 or pursuing even advanced fighter jets than F-16. Gripen-E took first flight in July this year, it is still a prototype, It’s FOC is expected not before 2021.

6.Moreover for Gripen the major components like landing gears, IRST, FLIR the companies include DENEL of South Africa and SELEX which is sub-ordinate of Finmeccania, both of them banned India due to corruption charges, thus making ToT negotiation further difficult.

Considering all this situation in picture, if at all the contract is signed then it will take atleast 3–4 years to signing contract , 2–3 years to setting up factory or assembly line and last planes flies out after 6–7 years after contract is signed , i.e is last planes flies near about in 2030–32.


               F-16/GRIPEN VS (LCA Mk-2+RAFALE)

The LCA Mk-2 and Rafale will be a more feasible choice.

REASONS:

  • WHY NOT GRIPEN?
    • ANS:

Look at the above picture.

The Gripen E is not under one flag, It’s parts are imported from OEMs based in:

  • USA(Substantially High)
  • Germany
  • Britain
  • Czech Republic
  • Canada
  • South Africa

So all major IPRs are hold by these foreign OEMs which signifies the following:

  • India has to negotiate with following OEMs outside sweden for ToT.
  • It’s not possible to negotiate with all of them for ToT and manufacturing line also all these OEMs will agree for ToT is not a cent percent probability either, which signifies that the so called “Advance Manufacturing Facility” in India will be a Final assembly line just like Rafale , something we have been doing for past 6 decades or so.
  • The Biggest Fool we are being made of is that Gripen-E isn’t even ready yet, Gripen-E had it’s maiden flight last month. I was astonished by excitement created by Indians on prototype flying, had it been Tejas, defence blogs, journalist had been filling pages to prove it’s piece of $hit. But that’s not case for Gripen, Shows typical “Gora skin Superior syndrome” mentality prevalent in India society, nevertheless back to topic. This proves two things:
    • Gripen-E is neither battle Proven, criteria which we indians often try to impose on indigenous weapons to prove them inferior.
    • Nor is it ready. It’s still a prototype.

Gripen is in similar condition to Eurofighter typhoon in MMRCA deal.

  • I have serious reservation against just Adani . I will explain:

Look at the below given picture:

You know what this is?

This is DPP-2016 CHAPTER-7: The Strategic Partnership Model

The following are the criterias for an SP:

1.Financial capability.

2.Technology capability for Heavy Engineering manufacturing.

  • Adani group is in a great deal of Debt already, it owes near to 9Bn$ to various state and private banks in this country, setting up business under so called “Make(read assemble) in India” will again ask for loans w/o paying previous humoungous debts.
  • Adani group doesn’t have any experience in Heavy Engineeering manufacturing let alone defense.

KSSL, Mahindra Aerospace, L&T defence, TATA(Also Dyanamatic technologies) are in either Aerospace/heavy engineering manufacturing or both businesses for more than a decade now also Ambani have been operating RDEL since 1997.

When there is a student working hard for years for a upcoming exam and suddenly a friend of examiner is selected for next round w/o giving exam, how will you feel?

Then how will you quantify the fact that a SP was allowed fairly even defying all the given points in SP?

  • WHY NOT F-16?
  • Short Answer:
    • It is a “Old Man on Steroids”
    • COMCASA
    • USIBC letter to MoD about unwillingness to share TOT.
    • Then US pushing for Hypersonic tech proliferation act.
  • Details:
  • F-16 on the contrary defies some of these logics, though it has it’s fare share of complexities as stated below:

If some recent news is to be trusted then F-16 or Gripen both have got some more challenge from IAF:

Recent media reports say that a Senior Test Pilots of Indian Air Force hit out at Modi government on India flirting with ideas to procure either F-16 and Gripen-E of which both had failed under MMRCA technical trials hints at discord in Indian Air Force regarding the purchase of Single-engine fighter jet tender. Unnamed Senior Test Pilot of Indian Air Force who was part of Original MMRCA technical trials where both F-16IN and Gripen NG failed miserable called F-16 as Obsolete in terms of technology and growth potential of the air frame already has reached its peak a decade back and current offer of ” Block 70 ” is just glorified Block 50/52 Air frame with Block 60 Techs. Test Pilot also confirmed that Lockheed Martin technical deficiencies highlighted by Indian Air Force in detail after MMRCA technical trials are still not been addressed yet by the OEM and Limited technical trials which IAF plans to carry out to check same technical performance shortfalls recorded in last trials will again expose this deficiency in technical parameters. The pilot also lambasted Saab’s Gripen-E and added that Gripen-E is still uncompleted aircraft and carries many prototype equipment which is still under testing stages and it will take some time before aircraft will gain full operational status while airframe limitations of the aircraft will still presists to overcome failures recorded under MMRCA technical trials. Many Defence Analysts have criticised Government for flirting with ideas to build F-16s in India when the world over F-16s are been retired due to technological limitations. Analysts have hit out at the government since any order for F-16s could purely be to create a business opportunity for certain government friendly Industrial giants in India who are making a foray in defence sector to fulfil PM Modi’s ” Make In India ” in the Defence sector. Another section of Defence Analysts has also criticized Government for ignoring Homegrown fighter aircraft like LCA-Tejas MKII and 5th Generation AMCA Projects which are still in drawing board due to lack of commitment and support shown by the present government. Purchase of F-16 or Gripen can have serious implication for India’s Tejas MKII which analysts believe could be scrapped in favor of additional orders for this jet in future.”

(footnote: http://idrw.org/iaf-test-pilots-give-thumbs-down-both-to-f-16-and-gripen-e/ .)

  • Even if I suppose this report is fake still there are many questions that questions this deal itself.

Further,Lets start one by one from all recent interviews and articles from LM representative and Westerrn Defense analysts:

India traditionally drives a hard bargain for technology transfers or demand expansive offsets that the US will unlikely concede such as state-of-the-art engine, AESA, and other technologies. Rather than drive a traditional Indian bargain on these items for the sake of tightly controlled and restricted licenses, by getting their foot in the door with the F-16IN program, India can indigenously develop many marketable add-ons, upgrades, and system integration that do not compete with offerings US firms.”(http://www.indiandefensenews.in/…)Now i don’t think atleast without AESA radar the deal is going to get signed if “Make in India” is truly be considered.“India operate the biggest fleet of Russian/Soviet fighters in the world, and is a major operator (one of the biggest after France) of French fighters. No one, presently, have the capability and motive to network these planes together into a combat cloud. To do so, they have to have the combination of critical mass (units operating or on order), experience operating / supporting them, technological base, and incentive / motive to do so. Chinese or Russians are not going to network US or European planes. French will do US/European, but not Russian or Chinese gear. US can integrate European (including French), but will not work on Russian or Chinese kit. Countries that do operate or intend to buy large fleets of European, American and Russian aircraft like Saudi Arabia, UAE or Iran do not have the technical capability of India in software and communications, the familiarity and logistical support of having operated aircraft from Europe, Russia/USSR, and USA when the F-16 deal goes through.Israel in theory have the technical capability, but not the critical mass or the motive to do so without an export customer. For Israeli arms makers, amortizing the cost over one customer (except India) is difficult when India can do much of the work themselves.Beyond this is integration of aircraft, there is the problem of mating platforms into resources from space to air to sea and undersea. i.e. air defense systems, command and control networks, land or sea based SAMs and ECM resources, etc. which hardly anyone is interested in working with the hodgepodge of older gear that India has in abundance and is familiar with.

  • Now SU-30 is to be the mainstay of IAF for atleast 2 decades or so. So, if uncle sam is not interested in networking the F-16 with russian a/c or even weapons that might be turn off for The lion of Make in india.

The wording of the deal which was signed at the Paris Air Show is very clear—it states only the “intent to partner together to meet India’s Make-in-India requirement through the establishment of an F-16 production line in India”. The most obvious takeaway from this is that the deal is not a firm agreement to manufacture the F-16 in India, but only a letter of intent to assemble the plane in India if and when the Indian Air Force (IAF) chooses that platform.The downside of this, for India, is that by some estimates, less than 40% of the F-16 is actually Lockheed technology. The remaining 60% is proprietary technology owned by hundreds of sub-systems manufacturers spread across the globe. This means that about 60% of the F-16 technology remains unavailable to India unless its signs deals with each of the hundreds and possibly thousands of sub-component manufacturers, some of whom are based in countries like Turkey that are less than enthusiastic about India.The F-16 engine, for example, belongs to another US company: General Electric. Its core crystal-blade technology is off limits to even the closest US allies. Also, given the slow growth of new engines globally and considering that India’s stated aim is to become a competitor, it hardly suits GE’s business interests to transfer such technology to India.”

  • If all above three points are considered than this deal doesn’t sound much different than Indo-Russia SU-30 deal. Then for a similar deal it makes no sense to strain the decades long Indo-Russian relationship.

Here comes the LM representatives kicker:”FP: Do they have to be engineers? Lockheed: No, I mean people who have been trained through an ITI or equivalent technical training institution with a diploma. That’s a large amount of the workforce and it’s pretty similar in the US also. Then you need entry level engineers, designers, supply chain managers, software engineers, hardware engineers, supply chain integrators, business people – the whole spectrum. You also need skilled technicians and engineers for testing the systems, the worthiness of the aircraft itself. You start with technician level and then you have people at all of these levels. You would need systems engineers and industrial engineers who understand process flow and production line – so various kinds of engineers at every level and business managers who can understand both the flow of equipment and flow of money. This is like bringing up a whole new industry. Working with a company like TATA and TASL means they already have a lot of the processes understood which is a big benefit.”(F-16: What It Takes To Build This Fighter Plane In India)

  • Only ITI and production facility based engineers, an production facility which being from the leading manufacturer will be atleast 50% if not less automated, raises questions:
  • How many jobs for a automated facility like this? even if you say it will have the entire production facility and not just final assembly.
  • What about R&D? as nothing mentioned about researchers, PHD
  • Why change of plans by LM about making India” the only manufacturer” to transferring only texas line to India and making india “one of the many manufacturer” needs to be addressed? Is this done to keep Pakistan safe or better word “to keep the Pakistani market safe.”

INFERENCE:

1.Whosoever wins, it’s not going to help much about the ongoing indigenous projects, probability may be it can curtail them.SAAB has only one strong point for TOT GaAn AESA radar, unfortunately that point too is diluted after DRDO has came up with the theory of same and IISC Bangalore starting it’s own GaAN manufacturing furnance. The only way it helps is India gets a private aerospace assembly line.

2.The so called propaganda of ToT telling that it should be so significant that it can be used to create India’s own fighter, or say India’s own LM/SAAB, forget it, no sane OEM will create a competitor of it’s own, So better get A$$ out of couch and start spending on R&D, there are no shortcuts.


WHY RAFALE?

Image result for dassault rafale

  1. There shall be reduction of cost per Rafale if more are ordered.
  2. The DRAL factory in Nagpur shall start in January 2018, existing factory shall cut short 2-3 years of time by new manufacturer for it’s own factory.
  3. French SAFRAN are already helping in reviving the KAVERI Engine. By placing further orders we can lure them to assist in LCA MK-2 and AMCA projects.
  4. The order for more rafale would ensure commonality between fleet hence less time and money will be spent on training technicians,  engineers and pilots to learn about the aircraft. More variety means a burden of learning more, hence more time and money will be spent.
  5. Commonality between LCA and Rafale engine will ensure better spare supply, which means a advantage logistically in war time.

COCLUSIONS:

A> Logic prevails: More LCA and Rafales wins

B> Lack of Long term vision prevails:F-16/ Gripen wins

 

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