Tuesday, June 30, 2009

MMRCA Part 2 - The Swedish Underdog








Saab's tagline for the Gripen India campaign ("The Independent Choice") tells you a great deal about the depth of recognition by the company that the competition will most definitely be decided on political lines. Politically, the Gripen is squarely the odds-on underdog in the competition. The fact that it is an "independent choice" hasn't impressed an establishment that refuses to budge from the perception that the purchase of 126 fighters is as much a definitive politico-strategic investment as it is the topping up of depleting squadron strength of the IAF. This is not unreasonable, and even IAF pilots believe that the MMRCA contract is a chance to change a lot of things. Some view the Gripen's marketing as defensive, almost yielding too much to the overwhelming perception that India will buy American. But the aircraft itself has a great deal going for it.

STRENGTHS

Apart from the fact that is undoubtedly an excellent airplane, ironically, the Gripen's biggest play is the fact that it is a relatively independent choice. Within the government, many believe the Gripen is a safe bet at a good price, and one that (like the F-16), fits in with what the IAF had originally asked for. There also exists a belief within the government that the people at Saab have pioneered and fast-tracked the Demo NG programme principally for the MMRCA programme, and taken this to mean a level of commitment. The IAF has also received and been impressed by independent testimonials from the air forces of Hungary and Czech Republic about turnaround and ownership costs of the Gripen C/D. The IAF is also quite impressed with the Gripen's permutation configuration of systems, sensors and avionics, not to mention a quantum leap in the computer/bus (including Link 16), GCAS, satellite comms, payload capacity and EWS between the Gripen C/D and the Gripen NG. The IAF also likes the very nifty Cobra helmet mounted display system. The Gripen's pitch that it can be turned around on the ground (engine, systems) the fastest among all contenders makes it perfect for the IAF. The Gripen team has also squarely pitched the airplane as the a perfect complement to the "big-hitter" Su-30MKIs, implying that India's growing Flanker fleet could be inadvertently rendered superfluous if the heavy contenders in the MMRCA -- the F/A-18, the Typhoon or the Rafale -- were chosen for induction.

WEAKNESSES

Unfortunately, the Gripen's weaknesses are many. The biggest, I've outlined in the intro. The fact that is provides no strategic fruits is a big downer. The fact that Sweden promises not to interfere, but rather provide full autonomy to the Gripen India programme is simply too little in the Indian context. In fact, there are senior officers in the IAF who believe that Saab flatters itself in the belief that Sweden is powerful enough to fiddle with the strategic/military autonomy of a country like India, especially since the MMRCA provides for a total transfer of technology that very nearly precludes the possibility of any meaningful interference post-contract. Another weakness is the aircraft's country of origin itself. Provided that the Saab proves to be the best aircraft in the field evaluation tests (FETs) -- which it well might -- will any Indian government, let alone the Congress -- have the guts to buy Swedish ever again? If anyone has any doubts about the Bofors ghost, cast a glance at the farcical joke being played in the Indian Army's efforts to purchase 400 towed 155-mm artillery guns. It's been on since 2003, with an unprecedented four trial rounds. The final results laid out that the SWS Bofors gun was on top throughout. At the last moment, then Army chief General JJ Singh gave in to a firm political warning and called for a re-tender of the entire competition. It probably speaks volumes that he's now the politically-appointed Governor of Arunachal Pradesh. A stunned Bofors still hasn't recovered from the shock. Saab, which close links with the Bofors company, knows just what a liability being from Sweden is forever more in India. Worse, there's no sidestepping it. Worse still, even the IAF recognises that. The tragedy is, of course, that the Gripen has absolutely nothing to do with Bofors.

Tomorrow: Part III - The Future Fulcrum

See also:
Part 1 - The Super Viper

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

The first picture is good for marketing but not realistic at all.
How far can the plane go with such a (ridiculous) payload ? And it will be intercepted even before it can reach the target area.

Anonymous said...

Shiv Nice articles. Am a fan of this blog and i make it a point to visit the blog atleast once a day. Kudos to you...

In betn waiting for the detailed Tejas report that you were supposed to post.

rahulka said...

where is your promised LCA update?

Anonymous said...

Political considerations aside do you have no knoledge of the technical status of this option. What about the AESA radar? The Vixen 1000ES, the radar chosen for Gripen NG after Thales backed off is yet to start development.

Anonymous said...

An excellent series shiv.

One more aspect of gripen being very similar to tejas may go against it.

Anonymous said...

Wow, the first picture looks nice. Its way too loaded though. Probably a 150 mile radius range loaded like this.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the Gripen's weaknesses are many.

And then you didn't point out a single "weakness". ROFL. All the alleged "weaknesses" are just desi political drama, nothing Saab can do about that.

Technically, the aircraft is strong. It is also similar to Tejas, this will help HAL to benchmark its manufactuing capacity and quality against western platform. If the quality of फिरंगी Gripen is similar to HAL built Tejas, it will remove a huge stigma from desi manufacturing.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the Gripen's weaknesses are many.

And then you couldn't point out a single "weakness". ROFL. All the alleged "weaknesses" are just desi political drama, nothing Saab or any manufacturer can do about that. Bofors is irrelevant, this is 2009 and you are dealing with a different company.

Technically, the aircraft is strong. It is also similar to Tejas, this will help HAL to benchmark its manufactuing capacity and quality against western platform. If the quality of फिरंगी Gripen is similar to HAL built Tejas, it will remove a huge stigma from desi manufacturing.

Vin said...

Throw SAAB out of race as they are supplying AWACS system to Pakis...

Tejaswy said...

Seems like a lot of Tejas fans are waiting for the Tejas report.

Anonymous said...

[i]
Throw SAAB out of race as they are supplying AWACS system to Pakis...
[/i]
Well said vin dude

Anonymous said...

cant trust the swedes. Ericsson was taken as consultant for one important project.Other than yes,no alright ,they never gave anything meaningful.! The project has since been declared a failure and sucessfully closed! so much for our incompetence!

Anonymous said...

Throw SAAB out of race as they are supplying AWACS system to Pakis...

Then that means throw US out also, since they have been gifting Pakistan all kind of weapons, and nurturing them as an 'attack dog' against India.

Exclude Russians too, they sold Pakis some choppers.

Exclude France too, they sold them some Mirages and sensors in the past.

Throw out everyone, Vin The Genius will make an aircraft for IAF himself in his garage.

Anonymous said...

The biggest factor to be considered is: Single Engine vs. Twin Engine.

Amongst the shortlisted aircraft, the F-16 IN, and Gripen NG belong to the single engine category and the F/A-18 IN, MiG-35, Rafale and the Eurofighter belong to the twin engine category. In assessing the defense posture impact of single engine versus twin engine, it should be noted that twin engine aircraft historically provide greater safety, launch/mission reliability and survivability in both peace and during operations. This is substantiated by a study conducted by the US Air Force which examined F-16 and F-15 accidents over a six year period. The study determined that of the 38 engine-related incidents, the F-16 had a 100% aircraft write off. The F-15 aircraft had ZERO percent.

The advantage of twin engine fighter aircraft is acute, in particular for India’s vast distances, climatic and elevation challenges, and far flung maritime approaches to secure. In combat or peace time, twin engine aircraft are more likely to bring the pilot home from the many conditions in which the IAF operates.

Conversely, a single engine aircraft such as the F-16IN or Gripen NG will incur more operational and peace time losses and contribute to defense of the nation less effectively.

Anonymous said...

The only weakness is the political congress-sweden angle? Must be a stunner of a plane then.

@Vin : Do we rule out Lockheed Martin as they supplied F16 to Pakistan?

ABHINABA said...

Till so far only two MMRCA contenders achieved the supercruising ability & Gripen NG is the only single engined 4.5 gen. fighter that has this ability. In future aerial warfare supercrusing is needed & as we are thinking about to retain our MMRCA for 40 years we need a fighter that has bright prospects of future & also supportable for LCA MK2 development.So, in my thought F-18E/F Super Hornet & Eurofighter Typhoon are the best choice.

Anonymous said...

The Gripen NG is likely to have the lowest per unit price and the lowest life cycle cost. That is the USP of the jet. The problem for Gripen is in showcasing new technologies on the NG prototype when they bring it here. Sure they have the Selex Vixen but its still in a preliminary state of flight test. That isnt to say it wont be fully developed by the time the MRCA contract fructifies. The Gripen, in my opinion, is the best jet here. Super-cruise, a swash-plate ASEA, low costs, quick turn-around capability and possibly the most advanced data-link system in the world, streets ahead of the Link 16 ... even though the Link 16 may be the system adopted. India needs a leap of faith to acquire the Gripen NG. The Swedes are willing to back their guarantees in hard cash. Its now upto our Babus to look beyond their noses ... yes, Sweden gives us a zero politico-strategic edge ... but they may, potentially, be giving us the best plane. Why are we worried about appeasing either the Russians or the Americans when we are already buying weapons systems from them.

To me, if the Gripen NG ends up being the most promising platform in the trials ... India should not think twice about acquiring the jet.

We missed a chance in acquiring the Viggen in the seventies (acquiring the American J-79 engine was a problem). This may be a great choice IF it proves itself in the trials.

Anonymous said...

India needs to acquire 126+ aircraft because it needs to phase out the old Mig-21 aircraft (around 15 squad) from the Indian Airforce. To achieve this India need around 300 airframes to phase out the entire MIG-21 aircraft.
LCA (Tejas) suppose to phase out the entire Mig-21s but as it was so delayed that India have to issue a global tender to acquire 126 aircraft from the foreign company.Initialy India looks to the French Mirage 2000 V (2000-5 MK2) aircraft to phase out the MIG -21, but later issue a global tender to acquire much more advance capable aircraft.

India needs an aircraft which is lighter than Su-30 MKI and will have same advance multi-role cabability. This aircraft will stay in the airforce till 2040.

Indian Airforce needs an aircraft which is capable to meet its strategic requirement.

Only 3 aircraft will be the seriously observe by the Indian airforce.

SAAB – GRIPEN

EADS - EUROFIGHTER TYPHOON

DASSAULT- RAFALE

Anonymous said...

@Shiv
As far i know Sweden's defense policy is "we will sell u weapons but u cant use them in any kind of war".Are they kidding??What are we supposed to do with Gripen....put them museum,schools or universities.
My serious goes like this
1.F-16IN-->>don't buy anything that has US tag attached with it.
2.F-18 e/f-->>same reason as above
3.Gripen NG-->>Why did they sell awe&c to Porkistan???
4.Rafale-->>No meteor till 2017 still its better than anything from US.
5.EF-->>Forget about logistics and training.What EF offers is simply incredible.Nothing beats it in its category.Pakis and Chinkis simply can't withstand it.No US here.So no strings attached.
6.Mig-35-->>What are we going to with only 8 hard-points??This is supposed to be a multi-role a/c...is it??i dont hink so.

That leaves us with Rafale and EF.I'll go with EF any day.

Anonymous said...

As far i know Sweden's defense policy is "we will sell u weapons but u cant use them in any kind of war"
It is nice of you to admit your ignorace. Saab's representative has already clarified on this BS during Aero India show, and besides it is up to IAF to stock up spares anyway.

3.Gripen NG-->>Why did they sell awe&c to Porkistan???

Money. Just like France et al. USA sells not for money but to keep India in check. It's not personal, love.

Eurofighter is a four nation sanction regime mess. Both Rafale and Gripen are better.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 4.30
And u are a dumba$$ to believe what they said.Tell me what's so indpendent about their a/c.What about american parts in it??

I simply don't give a damn whether EF is made by 4,5 or 1000 countries but believe me it's better than anything american.

How come u say Gripen is better??It doesn't have range and payload to be used effectively against Pakistan let alone China.Mind u...we are not talking a point-based fighter rather a true multi-role a/c.

Anonymous said...

.Mig-35-->>What are we going to with only 8 hard-points??This is supposed to be a multi-role a/c...is it??i dont think so.
--------------------------------
have u ever seen how many 500 kg LGB rafale/typhoon carry at one time

its no more than 6 and a
litening 2 pod on centre line hardpoint +2 WVR this is what typhoon carry

and rafale never carry weapons on wet hard points on wings

mig35 has 10 hardpoints not 8
it can carry 6 500kg LGB +2 wvr on wings and litening pod on air intake hardpoint and fuel tank on centre line hardpoint

Anonymous said...

To Anon 2:48 PM:

3.Gripen NG-->>Why did they sell awe&c to Porkistan???

Dear,
Everyone want to increase its Business. For example: France sold Agosta 90 B class submarine to Pakistan and same submarine was not provided to India. Instead they gave India Scorpene Submarine.
Now they are offering Pakistan with a new submarine known as "super scorpene" i.e name derivated as Marlin Submarine.
So as per your comment, then India must not buy Rafale from France, right!

Rafale, Typhoon and Gripen are indeed very good 4.5 generation fighter aircrafts but cost of Rafale and typhoon is very high and out of India's budget.

Example:

UAE is close to purchase 60 Dassult RAFALE with a cost of around 10 billion euro.

Saudi Arabia have signed 72 Typhoon Jets at a cost nearly £5billion (5 Billion Pound).

Only SAAB gripen fit the bill of IAF with advance technologies.

Anonymous said...

Tell me what's so indpendent about their a/c.What about american parts in it??

So, because Gripen-NG MKI might have a few US parts, it is better to reject it and buy aircrafts which have even more US parts. Nice "logic".


It doesn't have range and payload to be used effectively against Pakistan let alone China.Mind u...we are not talking a point-based fighter rather a true multi-role a/c.
We will never fight Pakistan. We both know it. Pakistan has already provoked us many times, we never do anything except indulge in ineffectual diplospeak BS. Pakistan is US' agent anyway, no one in India wants to admit that, much less has the willingness to stand up to unkil like China has done.

Anonymous said...

To Shiv Aroor:

I do not agree with the weakness that you have mentioned with the Gripen fighter.

If Indian Govt. will not accept the Gripen fighter because of the famous Bofors issue, then why they have issued, RFP to SAAB Int'l.

Meanwhile SAAB is not marketing Gripen fighter but Gripen is marketing by Gripen Int'l, a JV between BAE Systems and SAAB.

You have not mentioned any weakness of Gripen on the Technical part.
Indian Airforce will purchase only aircraft which meet its operational requirement.

cane-an said...

Hi Shiv,
Eagerly waiting for your LCA update...

Anonymous said...

its true that we will never fight pakis and still want to acquire MRCA when we can acquire 50-60 mki which can fill the gap for sure

and no MRCA going to save us from paki ballistic missiles not even MRSAM

NJS said...

Gripen is very good machine , which suits Indian condition , if we get full TOT it could be best choice , but we need to consider russian mig-35 which has more powerful weapons (longer range AAM's missiles nearly 160 km ). F-16 & F-18 didn't offered us 100% TOT .
To have edge with bot china /pakistan , India need to select both MIG-35 & F-16 sufa. 126 nos mig35 with tot & may be 80 nos f-16 with out tot( can get the tech for US weapons )this can stop fighter deplections in IAF sqn's . f-16 will give clear edge against chinese fighters .

Anonymous said...

To Anon 5:12 PM:
How come u say Gripen is better??It doesn't have range and payload to be used effectively against Pakistan let alone China.Mind u...we are not talking a point-based fighter rather a true multi-role a/c.
---------------------------------

MRCA stands for Medium Role Combat aircraft.
India already have heavier aircraft like Sukhoi-30 MKI which has Multi role capability. India need the lighter aircraft so issues MRCA, which will phase out the old MIG-21 aircraft along with Tejas MK-2 aircraft.

Gripen IN offered to India has a internal fuel capacity increased by 40%, which will increase ferry range to 4,070 km (2,200 nmi). The engine GE F414G,will produce 20% more thrust at 98 kN (22,000 lbf), enabling a supercruise speed.
Gripen has 12 hard points which can carry wide range of missiles and Precision guided Bombs.
Gripen is truly Multi-role fighter aircraft.

Anonymous said...

@Anon
And what do we have except a prototype.

Anonymous said...

@Anon
But that pics Gripen will be having only 10 hard-points.Where did u get that figure of 12??To be frank if there are no strings attached with f-18e/f, it's a beast and a bomb truck.

Suyash said...

Anon @ 2:48 pm: Forget about logistics and training.What EF offers is simply incredible.Nothing beats it in its category

Anon @ 5:12 pm: I simply don't give a damn whether EF is made by 4,5 or 1000 countries but believe me it's better than anything american.


The Eurofighter's ground attack capabilities are still *very* basic, and were added only as an afterthought. It's an out-and-out A2A fighter.

If you had been following the MRCA saga since 2001, you would have realised that the requirement is for an aircraft that will primarily be used in the ground attack role. It will essentially replace the MiG-23BN, MiG-27, and the Jaguar. But it is meant to be leagues ahead of these aircraft in the strike role with added A2A capability. The MKI will take care of air dominance, and the LCA will be used for point defence and CAS.

From that perspective, the Super Hornet is by far the best choice. It is available now, it has proven capabilities and low life-cycle costs in harsh environments, and it will be well supported by its primary customer (The US Navy) for decades. But it is American, and that presents its own set of problems, none of which can simply be brushed aside.

Perhaps, a few years from now, the Rafale will give us all the capabilities the Super Hornet has, without the headache of sanctions. That will happen only if the French government supports the program more actively. So is the risk of going for such an aircraft now worth it? God onlee knows!

Anonymous said...

Indian Airforce will purchase only aircraft which meet its operational requirement.
-------------------------------
u r wrong about requirements

only that aircraft will be purchased which meets the requirements of mantires,secreteries,middlemen who asks air force?

Anonymous said...

To be frank if there are no strings attached with f-18e/f, it's a beast and a bomb truck
---------------------------------
just BS

and what about rafale which carry more payload

Anonymous said...

To Anon@8:02 PM:

1.Just don’t look what is there in the picture, try to see the content of the actual capabilities of the Gripen IN given by the SAAB int’l to the IAF.

2.To be frank if there are no strings attached with f-18e/f, it's a beast and a bomb truck.
-------------------------------

Dear,

There are many strings attached with any US Fighter aircrafts say F-16 or F-18.

It’s Boeing which says about the Technology transfer to India not the US Congress. F-18, if selected by India will also have to approve by the US congress. There is a major problem with the technology transfer of AESA radar to India. Boeing made it very clear to the Indian Govt.
There will be problem with the integration of some sophisticated Israeli / foreign / Indian technology in F-18; again US congress approval will be needed.
Another major problem is India till date not signed the end-user agreement with the USA. If signed, there will be physical verification of the aircraft time –to-time by the US authorities.
Lastly fighter aircraft are the backbone of any airforce. Any Problem with the spare parts / weapon integration will have major impact on the operational preparedness of the IAF.

Anonymous said...

Some people above are harping about how expensive the EF and Rafale are even though they are the two best options for India. If India couldn't afford either one of them like some people suggest then why were they allowed to compete. The 10 billion dollars is just a figure that most people use its not the real contract value. India can obviously afford them otherwise they wouldn't be here.
Also the Su-30MKI's RCS is way too high!! for it to be considered a true air dominance fighter like the EF.

Dave said...

I noticed 2 weaknesses being listed and both of them political. The first one I totally agree with but the "bofors ghost" weakness is not a factor.

In fact the Indian military has bought several SAAB systems in the recent months including self-protection systems to Dhruv and T-90.

A number of maritime surveillence systems was also bought from the Swedish Space corportation.

The bofors issue was long ago and not connected to the SAAB company.

The Gripen IN is practically custom built for India and is the only of the contenders that has a 5th generation avionics design, not just a AESA like the rest but also brand new databuses and computers. It's the Mirage 2000 of the 21st century and fits well as a winner if politics is not an issue.

Anonymous said...

To Anon@2:00 AM:

The 10 billion dollars is just a figure that most people use its not the real contract value. India can obviously afford them otherwise they wouldn't be here.
-----------------------------------

They are here because of the polticial problems.
Yes actual figure may go little high but problem will be there.

UAE is close to purchase 60 Dassult RAFALE with a cost of around 10 billion Euro.

With the same cost if u compare for Indian RAFALE then 126 aircraft will cost around 20 billion Euro (which is around Rs 1,35,000 crore).

Are you sure India ready to spend Rs 1,35,000 crore for 4.5 generation fighter and for only 126 fighter jets.

Anonymous said...

I doubt the new gripen can supercruise with any meaningful payload (when the gripen ng demonstrated supercruise it was with a clean aircraft above Sweden)

Anonymous said...

To Anon@8:00 PM

Gripen Demo has achieved the supercruise speed of Mach 1.2 without using the afterburner and with 2 Air-to Air missiles. More test are going on with more weapon payload and on higher Altitude.

By the way,Supercruise cabability are not the necessary (must)clause in the RPF (MMRCA) project.

anthony said...

The Gripen is good, but still far from ideal for India.

Anonymous said...

How can we forget how Swedes stopped supplying ammo for Howitzers during Kargil and Israeli helped us out. Actually swedes should write and not under there weapons "For peacetime only, not to be used in war". It would be same like be J-10 from Chinese...........

Atle said...

It is not true. Sweden never denied any deliveries during Kharhil. The only blockades has been imposed from India.

Anonymous said...

The Gripen NG is projected to supercruise with 4 air to air missiles. This may well be demonstrated to the Indian Air Force during the trials when the NG prototype is flown across