U.S. MMRCA fighters “formidable best buys” for India

As the competition for obtaining a $10 billion contract to sell India 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) reaches its final stages, an influential think-tank in Washington has pressed the case for India selecting U.S.-made fighters.

This week a report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace argued that although European aircraft are “technically superb,” their U.S. competitors could be considered “formidable best buys,” so long as Washington offered New Delhi generous terms on the transfer of technology that assured India access to fifth-generation fighters and provided “strong support for India’s strategic ambitions.”

While eight countries and six companies are in the race to win the lucrative contract, India has so far not indicated any strong preferences between the competitors and some experts have noted that it may decide to carve the contract up between several vendors, partly out of political considerations.

However in the CEIP report “Dogfight! India’s MMRCA Decision,” its author Ashley Tellis argued that this may be a less than optimal outcome because “While Indian leaders may be tempted to split the purchase among vendors… doing so would needlessly saddle the Indian Air Force with multiple airframes in return for meagre political gains.”

Mr. Tellis further underscored the significance of the ongoing tender process as it would help fill the “growing and dangerous hole in the IAF’s capabilities,” that the IAF’s “all-time low of 29 squadrons” represents.

In his report he argued that although this situation had arisen due to delays in defence procurement and accidents and retirements relating to older fighter aircraft, “India’s neighbours are aggressively modernising their own air forces,” and hence the MMRCA purchase decision was an imperative to reach the currently authorised force levels of 39.5 squadrons before 2017.

Mr. Tellis’ report concedes that political considerations would however be key in the selection process and “Indian policymakers will seek to minimise the country’s vulnerability to supply cut-offs in wartime, improve its larger military capacity through a substantial technology infusion, and forge new transformative geopolitical partnerships that promise to accelerate the growth of Indian power globally.”

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Posted by pilotpaul on Jan 31 2011. Filed under All News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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