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  1. 1


    If in US evaluations are done with "interdisciplinary tools" why did they have to cancel tanker deal and redo it? Did the system not work the first time???

    Mr. Tellis please let IAF/MOD/MOF worry about resources/procedures. I guess they are in better position to decide all this.

  2. 2


    even though i am in overall agreement of Mr. Shahs assessment of the article, I must agree with Mr Tellis on 1 point. Absolutely ignoring the cost part of the deal does not paint a complete picture. the shortlisted planes might be good, but are the extra capabilities worth the extra moolah being poured into each plane? the cost vs capability angle, if not analysed before making the downselect, would give us a very good product at an unreasonably high price, as opposed to a slightly less good product at a much more reasonable price, which would enable us to buy more in number.
    There might be some angles and equations which might not have been made public, the type of tech transfer available, missile deals and so on, which might bring the cost equation look favourable to the shortlists, which we also need to take into account.

  3. 3


    Lord tellis now says Indian government needs to take lessons on how to conduct foreign policy in relation to defense acquisitions…what a pompous know it all guru.
    Mate just a few words for you and your American friends in Washington – CISMOA / END USER VERIFICATION REGIMES – that's what comes with your super hornet package free of cost. Guess what the IAF does not need it nor does Government of India.

    As rightly said in one of the above posts where did you multidisciplinary approach vanish when the US government overruled the decision to award the tanker contract to EADS?? You yanks are a bunch of hypocrites just go away and sell your stuff to despots in the middle east and small banana republics whom you can arm twist into buying all things American at the exclusion of all else.

  4. 4


    if US is still committed to a relationship, dont you think even now they have a chance to offer F22 and win indian hearts and competition, but will you offer? and if you cant offer….this is what you say committed relationship?

  5. 5


    ^Ah yes, small banana republics like South Korea & Japan. Ironically, most despots in the mid-east buy Soviet-made junk. Unlike them, however, we simply don't sell our arms to everyone who will throw a dollar at us. You might realize this when you notice the Chinese armed forces consist entirely of Soviet bought weaponry and things reverse-engineered from that weaponry.

    Also, since the IAF has quite clearly stated that CISMOA et. al. had nothing to do with the downselect, it was purely technical, you seem to be calling your own Air Force a liar. Solid work.

  6. 6


    Ashley Tellis is absolutely right. In fact, I wish he argued it more strongly: The tender for the MMRCA and the way it was conducted by the MoD and the IAF was a farce and, if legally scrutinised, eminently questionable.

    1. Why did the Technical Oversight Committee meant to validate a deal which will end up costing WAY more than 42,000 crore rupees meet only AFTER 4 of the 6 contestants were rejected ? In other words, no technical scrutiny for a deal which is coming out of the pocket of the tax payer.
    2. There is NO way the HUGE technical offset proposals of all the bidders could have been properly studied. Each proposal was several thousand pages in length and yet the shortlist was announced just two odd weeks after these were submitted. The MoD will defend this by saying that it is not not NECESSARILY required to study the technical offset proposals BEFORE the final bidders are shortlisted. For those competing in the deal, this means that they have spent a year engaging Indian industry, reaching agreements and then formulating a technical offset proposal which is not even considered ! Absurd.
    3. But forget about the offsets for a moment. On technical grounds, NONE of the MMRCA contestants made it so therefore, the decision to shortlist was ENTIRELY subjective and that defeats the mandate of this tender which was meant to be objective from beggining to end.
    4. In specific terms, the Eurofighter needed a blower to start its engine in Leh. ie its Leh high altitude test was a failure. How was it shortlisted? Similarly, the Rafale had an AESA prototype radar in a state of relative infancy when it was first showcased in 2009-2010. Many of the modes were not developed, let alone being validated.
    5. So therefore, the US, the Russians and the Swedes have every reason to be upset. And heres why:
    (a) IAF pilots engaged a "target" at BVR ranges using the MiG-35s AESA and destroyed it with a BVR missile yet the MiG's radar was one of the reasons it was rejected.
    (b) If the reason for failing the F-16 and the F-18 was primarily linked to concerns over source-code sharing of the AESA radar and intrusive US laws, then why bother having them in the test in the first place? Didnt the IAF or MoD know about this when this entire circus began?
    (c) But if you ask me, the Swedes have the most reason to be aggrieved. Their jet was the most cost effective in this competition. Its Vixen AESA was in a far more advanced state of development that either the Typhoon's Captor or the Rafale's RBE AESA. While they couldn't showcase all the radar's modes, IAF pilots flew the NG checking out the basic radar modes available. They also flew the radar on a hack aircraft earlier. Sure India needed to take a leap of faith in shortlisting the Gripen NG but to me, as an observer, it was the best choice for the Indian Air Force. A genuine MiG-21 replacement with the ability to punch well above its weight class. It also fitted in perfectly to the IAF's future battle run-down with the stealth PAKFA leading the charge, followed by the AMCA, and the heavy Su-30. This would have been a great jet for young pilots to transition to the big jets besides being a genuine technologically sound addition with no concerns on source-code sharing etc.

  7. 7


    Tellies knows only people like General Zia, Musharaff, Marcos and all those tinpot dictators in latin America who follow the special relationship with USA.He thought as is the American Ambassador in India, that they have got the Political leadership fixated from World bank will deliver the MMRCA deal also. They just could not understand a honest Defence Minister of India or the honest Airforce officers who conducted the trials. Infact the Defence Ministry and also the Airforce officers are wary of CISMOA which Clinton was pushing. The tanker deal is another crumb which the World bank political leadership has thrown at Americans.Americans must understand how to deal with a country as diverse and large as India and this is not Japan,south Korea or major non NATO ally like Pakistan but an emerging India and most of them are wary of Americans

  8. 8


    The US doesn't have to "price" technology transfert, offsets benefits or strategic partnership since its own defence industry produces the vast majority of equipments needed by its armed forces: the comparison is pointless. Also, as already mentioned, the US procurement procedure is far from being a model (see the saga of refuellers, the fiasco of Comanche helicopter or Zumwalt destroyers, huge costs only balanced by long series of production, and so on).

    Given other international ongoing competitions worldwide, I'm not sur Boeing of LM will appreciate this sentence: "based on the standards of aerodynamic excellence, growth potential, longevity of puissance, and combat effectiveness, the IAF chose well in down-selecting the Eurofighter and the Rafale because they were, on balance, the leaders of the pack.". Good to know, coming for an independent expert.

  9. 9


    The FA-18 E/F would have been the natural choice if it had been a nimble performer in the air, and at high altitudes at that.

    Also the perception that US is high handed in terms of tech transfer, and the US congress having a penchant of imposing restrictions would have figured in the down select at some stage.

    Unfortunately the FA-18 is saddled with these two issues.

    Although one can't get a better radar or weapons systems than the FA-18 had, and at the price point at which it was on offer.

  10. 10


    First of all, Mr Ashley has replied to Mr. Shah’s post in a very positive manner.

    Mr. Tellis’ judgment on the evaluation by IAF is that the IAF had evaluated the aircrafts on purely technically grounds is not correct .

    The IAF had evaluated this whole process on ‘value’ terms as well, i.e. each and every factor costs. The evaluation process is not entirely technical, neither it is entirely commercial or strategic, but it lays more weight on technical evaluations (say 50%), but strategic, commercial factors were also considered.
    Let’s see how

    If we assign a ‘PRICE’ value to each factor and we have 8 factors that are very important, so these are assigned a certain percentage value of importance in evaluation:

    1. Purchasing cost of an aircraft, including possible upgrades and AMC. (10%)
    2. Cost associated with technology transferred (20%)
    3. Costs associated with technology not transferred. (-20%)
    4. Survivability of the logistics supply chain during war and peace.(10%)
    5. Customizability of those aircrafts that will be assembled in-house after technology transfer. (10%)
    6. Overall trust on the supplier during crisis situation. (10%)
    7. Technical specifications. (50%).
    8. Strategic advantage (10%)

    Now, Mr. Tellis should answer that if we evaluate the American aircrafts on these criteria, where do they stand? I think in the above mentioned factors , in 3,4,5,6,7, the American aircrafts score lower , hence the decision does not contains only technical factors .

    I should say that as a developing nation India and its IAF have done a very good evaluation till now and if they select the most suitable aircraft (i.e. Rafale based upon these factors) then this evaluation process will serve as a benchmark for other countries as well

  11. 11

    mathi man

    First of all. Thank you Mr Tellis for posting an article to Livefist blog., There are some regulars like me who appreciate your honoring us with an exclusive response article.

    Internet forums especially on defence do have few baddies. And I will request you not to take some "remarks" personally.

    As you can see we livefisters have already discussed on MMRCA umpteen nu,mber of times to a point where we do not wan tto hear MMRCA anymore.

    About your respone, I think:

    1. Not having the cost picture beforehand. I would like to say that Free market India can really loosen its purse strings for this Strong Anti china weapon. The one which will form the backbone of India's response to Chinese aggression in north east sector , if any.

    2. Buying a relation ship rather than a plane, will not help India in the long run. India is a 1.2 billion population country. It just cannot depend on any other country no matter how much dependable for "Anything"/. It can held as a stick against it. CISMOA and other tech transfer agreements coupled with gifting of F-16s to Pakistan totaaly ruled out all american planes from MMRCA long back, My Telley.

    Again, thanks for your article.

  12. 12


    IF us WANTED TO BUY THEIR AIRCRAFT WHY DIDNT THEY OFFER F-15 STRIKE EAGLE LASTEST VERSION..ITS our MONEY….its we who will decide wat should b purchased and wat is in our interest..and the only problem is that we give too much attention to people like J TELLIS..EUROFIGHTER AND RAFALE BOTH R GOOD..ANY ONE OF THEM WILL BEST FOR IAF..JAI HIND

  13. 13


    Forget this debate between Ashley Tellis and Mihir Shah: it's all small potatoes.

    The more important issue, you see, is that Indian procurement methods are way behind the curve in technology and practice. I have no doubt in my mind on this.

    Indians want always to develop their Swadeshi procurement systems, doesn't matter that these systems are heavy and burdensome and ineffective.

    We know that India is 80 years behind the world in aircraft carrier production and submarine production, and so on. Now here's one more: India is more than 50 years behind in fundamental procurement systems management.

    And here's another one: India is NEVER going to wake up! A thousand years behind and still sleeping!

  14. 14


    Hey, so much experts on this forum ! Fortunately the Indian Air Force has its own.

  15. 15


    I think AJT makes some very childish and immature assumptions. He’s primary assumption is that we can find out the “True cost of a capability”.
    As products/services get complex (AKA fighter Aircraft construction), many sellers drop out (due to many factors) this results in more consolidation amongst the producers. However, this has a negative impact on the buyers. Any reputed economist will agree that any decent Fighter Aircraft maker operates in an Oligopoly Market setup.
    Both Boeing and LM working in US have in the past repeatedly skimmed “The Dosh” from US tax payers and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future, simply because US DOD has no alternative to them and they (Boeing/LM) know how to play the political game by having suppliers from Hawaii to Alaska. Can AJT put forth any arguments to the contrary?
    Let me give you an example about how it is next to impossible to find out the cost of a capability.
    Now I don’t know the true cost of a FBW control system but I know an SU 30 MKI has 4 of them for redundancy purposes. So can AJT tell by how much the cost an aircraft should reduce if it only has 3 FBW as opposed to 4? Now this is a rudimentary example but when an aircraft has hundreds of systems, the true cost can never be found out by the buyer in an Oligopolistic market because there are NO TRUE alternatives. The alternatives that do exist are always with differentiated value and this makes it impossible for the buyer to judge the true cost (not to mention collusion between the sellers).
    “In the United States, such evaluations are conducted systematically using interdisciplinary tools by the office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In India too, such judgments have been made in the past by senior policymakers but on the basis of intuitions and prudential judgment rather than rigorous analysis.” Is that so? Can AJT provide any examples of US doing this efficiently and Indian policymakers doing it based on whims? How about asking Robert Gates on why the F35 program is getting costlier every day? And If AJT is arguing about a holistic approach to proper fund allocation then why have F22 when there is no Soviet Union and the F16/ F18s are better than anything that the Eurocanards can throw at them in the next 50 years. Why have F35 program when UCAVs are in advanced stage. Surely the threat perception of US, after the fall of USSR cannot be so unrealistic that it still has fighters like F16/18, F35 and F22 along with UCAVs? What are they going to fight? Aliens?
    As of now IAF does not control MoF so when they send out a fighter plane in harm’s way they expect it to do the job and then bring back the pilot safe. Now whether this can be done in a better manner with Mig 35 or EF, only they can decide. However if other factors which AJT talks about should be taken into consideration from the very beginning then I would also take into account US politics. Can AJT ask LM or Boeing whether they can guarantee fitting a Nuke to F16/18 for IAF?

    CecX Fable & Gas

  16. 16


    Dear Mr.Tellis

    I read your article and it is interesting.

    I believe you are an expert in the industry, pardon me , but I am not,

    What you say is true but to an extent, as you might agree there are two sides
    to every story,

    Most indians will relate to reliability of Americans post Pokhran II incident,
    Pakistan has been the best ally for USA for a long time, but after that incident
    America had stopped sending planes to Pakistan, and if there was a war with India
    I am sure pakistan could have been beaten down convincingly by India.

    Also USA stopped the technical teams from co-operating on Tejas and also the GE F-404
    sale was stopped which pushed back the induction of Tejas

    One question, why does India want to have competetion for MRCA when we have one of the
    best plane available from Russia

    Russia has not been that reliable as before and Admiral Goroshkov has been a good example
    So we are now eager to learn and understand more about developing and working with top of
    the line technology.

    With this incident I feel the Americans are like cry babies, if you lost the race, yes you
    lost, is it not the choice of India (as a buyer) to buy the plane that we feel fit? or do
    we have to rely purely on America to make our choice for us?

    It is not about plane, but also getting self reliance,

    F-16 IN is at the end of its life, what further development can be done? The same for F/A-18
    but there cna be some development in it. But Rafale and Eurofighter have more chances of development
    both in Engines and designs and we want to be actively part of this to be self reliant, in
    understanding and trying to develop these new technologies ourselfves

    American planes are exported with the sensitive components taken off, and in the even they
    are wanted, the American senate has to ratify the decision and this decision can take a long time
    and also its matter of "behaving". Weapons industry is buyers market, and there are many options
    available, so why cannot we take options.

    India Selected and purchased C-130J Hercules, we even purchase P-8I at much higher price based
    on the American FMS, also there is confirmed order of C-17 Globemaster III.
    So giving 3 different orders for big planes to USA does it not mean that we want to have a relationship?
    If this is not example of wanting a relationship then what is?

    Correct me if i am wrong.. F-16 is at end of its shelflife. even America has closed the production lines
    of its F-16 and in case they would have got order for F-16 then it would have created jobs for americans
    but bottom line is PRODUCTION LINE OF F-16 IS CLOSED . So they do not want to make them and not for
    use itself or its allies. F/A-18 is good plane , but F-22 and F-35 will soon replace F/A-18 ..
    By the way, America had put preconditions that they might be able to offer us F-35 if we were able to
    buy F-16, does a true relationship work on such conditions ?

    America already has a big slice of indian defence pie, and that C-130J nor Globemaster have some
    avionics for which we have to take permission of US Senate, so its win win sitaution for USA
    and India, Selecting the Teens will have lot of preconditions.. so I think India is better off
    selecting the Eurofighter and Rafale as finalists.

    India did select relationship when it did select C-17 and C-130J and P-8I, but in MMRCA we wanted to
    select a fighter which we can develop as per our requirements, example is Su-30 MKI so why not ???

  17. 17


    After reading both Shah's and Tellis' posts, I'm glad that the latter has chosen a career studying strategic and defense issues and the former has not. Shah is a bright young man but his writing reflects his relative shallowness of thought and lack of complete comprehension, while Tellis consistently hits the nail on the head, despite his affiliations and the constraints that they must inevitably impose.


  18. 18


    But why did the gripen get eliminated? 🙁

  19. 19


    I think Tellis did well in his response to clear the air. A nice comeback. Now I am even more convinced the IAF/MOD made the right decision.

    Yes the procedure can be tweaked and some points mentioned should be considered.

    But this type of scoring must be done before the technical analysis, so vendors are clear where they stand. And should have a far lesser[nominal] weighted average in the whole scheme of things. This is so that the downselect is still overwhelmingly technical.

    There MOD! something for you to discuss and implement by 2020. 🙂

  20. 20

    Manish Kumar

    Why go for Mirage 2000 upgrade? Buy 50 Gripens instead for that price. What we need immediately is numbers. Gripen the best candidate to repalce Mig 21s in huge numbers.
    Let the MMRCA debate go on and on… and let the public enjoy and get amused.

    Jaago MOD Jaago. Just seal the deal man.

    Manish Kumar
    Dainik Hindustan

  21. 21


    He argues that “a strict and almost pig-headed adherence to laid-down rules and procedures” is necessary to avoid “leaving even the smallest procedural gaps open to exploitation by vested interests,”
    Bingo Mr Tellis You have hit bulls eye. Most do not understand this point. you should have elaborated further.
    And Anon @12.02 pm has struck correctly.
    There is an undue haste to cut short procedures.

  22. 22


    Shiv, with the kind of attention your blog gets, it is perhaps time for you to consider quitting your day job and running Livefist full time. Expand and grow. My humble suggestion. Keep up the great work always.

  23. 23


    I really appreciate Dr. Tellis taking the time and effort to write out a detailed reply to my column. While there is much to disagree about (there always will be, won't it?), his reply does set the record straight on many points, and helps one better understand his point of view and where he is coming from.

  24. 24


    Mr. Tellis you have been very brave in telling Boeing and LM the truth. I would say don't get bothered by this Kid Mihir. Mr. Tellis you are doing a great job and you have been true son of soil.

  25. 25


    Who is this guy? why do we care what he has to say about the MMRCA? Tellus Ji


  26. 26

    Jyothi TM

    If you wanted to sell a plane, then you should have brought the best plane. If you wanted to send a message to Indians saying we stand by you, you should have backed up Obama's lecture in Indian parliament on Indian history with something more substantial like perhaps a F35.

    Bottomline: best planes got selected. you lost.

  27. 27


    It is obvious and clear that Mr. Ashley Tellis has to justify the US Dollars he earns and the citizenship that he has been given. Prior to select he in a suttle manner tried to influence thinking of various stakeholders to the MMRCA select. However; it turns out many did not read that document or found it not worthy of full reading (like myself) as it clearly was trying to promote USA and its 2 aircraft.

    Hats off to Govt Of India who were entrusted by the people of India to make the right choice. They have done very right in not getting stuck with the USA on fighter aircraft (who have proved multiple times that they are not reliable) and wanting to force agreements down India's throat.

    As Chief of Air Staff said "we do not have to be talking to the USA all the time" while commenting on CISMOA.

    Post down select, Ashley Tellis has to further justify his importance with all his statements and justifications and statements. I tried to read his response to Mihir Shah and again it turned out to be a long suttle way of justifying US aircraft. Sorry to say it, but I lost interest half way.

    Maybe Ashley Tellis you should forget about India, our choices, our view of the world and find someone more malleable to USA view points.

    All the best

  28. 28

    Russel peters

    I think Mr Tellis completely failed to understand the thinking of Indian strategic policy makers.

    "India settled for a plane not relationship"

    This is exactly what Indian policy makers want !! Nothing wrong in it.

    It is impossible to have a military relationship with the US for different reasons.

    1. Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA)

    2. the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA)

    3. Too much American dependence on Pakistan for operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    4. American dependence on China
    due to massive debt.

    America depends on two main adversaries of India.

    India can be blackmailed during wars or forced to pull back or restrain against above mentioned countries.

    Mr Tellis wants India to be another pet of the US like Pakistan or Australia or UK.

    It is not going to happen.

  29. 29

    Mr. Ra

    "Purchasing of relationships" is basically a bad concept.

  30. 30

    Mr. Ra

    Superiority Vs Cost Effectiveness! I think if the objective was only to replace the ageing Mig-21s, then F-18 was the most cost effective solution.

    But if the objective was to fight China, then Rafale/EFT are incomparable under the give circumstances.

    For increasing the numbers, either 200 a/cs shall be purchased or Tejas-Mk2 to be expedited.

  31. 31

    Mr. Ra

    F-18 is a Grade-II product from US way behind the F-22 and F-35. Whereas Rafale/EFT are latest Grade-I products from France/UK.

    Now can anyone say that France/UK are way behind than US in such matters so as to equate the F-18 with the Rafale/EFT.

  32. 32

    Spirit of Exuberance

    Mr. Tellis thanks for posting on on of most read defence blog in India.

  33. 33


    Dear Mr.Tellis

    You did write a big article about relationships and that India selected a plane and not relationship

    Let me summarise something for you

    1. The request for proposal was for plane, and I think Rafale and Eurofighters are the latest in airplane technology that was available.

    2. Relationship as you know, works both ways and we Indians accept it, with whoever we have had defence partnership will agree that we have been good partners. But Americans are known to break relationshps when it pleases them or their policy

    I was just watching news, and noted that David Headley has made a bargain with USA and that he would not be deported to India for justice and same is with Mr.Rana, another prime accused, also ISI which is behind all this (including killing of US Citizens) the american justice system looks away (probably because it suits them)

    Now the point is that American citizen David Headley is in a way of directly or indirectly part of 26/11 conspiracy in India and I think that it is justice denied to the many people killed during that incident, and I would not be wrong to say that "America is shieilding its nationals which are responsible for act of Terrorism in India.

    So on basis of this above, do you really believe what you are saying yourself, or its just pathetic US propaganda that India went for planes. Of course we went for planes, did you not read the RFP? It read "126 MRCA"

    And frankly about relationship. I think our definitions of "Relationship" are quite different,
    Your definition of "relationship" is what suits you and you change or bend it to suit you
    Our definition of "relationship" is firm and we are renowned for it.

    So instead of writing such stupid articles, try to analyse your country and its policy.

  34. 34


    The plan was to buy a plane and not a relationship. The US has purchased a relationship with pakistan, with the F-16's thrown in for good measure…and you know how nicely that is going. The purelanders are desperate to get out of uncle sam's clutches…but I dont blame you, you are just doing your job. Forgotten your roots, and your "relationshi" with India…

  35. 35


    Mr. Ra @ 3:08

    Apparently you have the wrong information. France and UK are WAY behind the US in defense technology. That's the plain fact.

  36. 36


    Thank U Mr Tellis,
    As expected you laboured on strategy which is far more complex and unpredictable a proceedure than buying an aircraft. I am glad you stuck to to your basics, that is strategy.

    However, Indian or IAF decision was devoid of those considerations is not clearly made out. Europeans offred their best. Dis Russia and US offred their top of the line aircrafts ?

    What kind of strtegy of late you nations are following Mr Tallis? Do not US and Russia realise that the cold war period is over and India is not Pakistan?

    Russia and US have not woken up from cold war slumber so far South Asia is concerned.

    That in my opinion is the blind spot?

    Lastly, to build realtions did the US offer profit making aircrafts or relationship??

    That defeats your well intentioned piece !! That is not to say that you are truelly a friend of India !! Thanks and Namste.


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