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Old 9th April 2018, 20:04   #1
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Exclamation Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF

According to a recent article in one of the nation's more respected dailies (see “Process to procure 110 fighter jets begins” published in The Hindu on 7 April 2018), the Ministry of Defence has initiated the formal process to buy 110 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF) through a global tendering process.

Why is this significant? Because the IAF is in desperate need of new fighters. The sanctioned strength of the IAF is 42 fighter squadrons, while its current strength is alarmingly low at 32 – so much for our preparedness to fight simultaneous wars on two fronts! By most estimates, if the present situation continues and older aircraft are phased out at the planned rate, the IAF could be left with just 19 fighter squadrons by 2027 (all 10 existing squadrons of old MiG-21s and MiG-27s are slated for retirement by 2022).

Why “Dogfight 3.0”? Because the IAF’s struggle to acquire new frontline fighters began over a decade ago with the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (M-MRCA) competition in 2007, continued with the Single-Engine Fighter (SEF) programme in 2016, and has now resurfaced a third time with an initial tender or request for information (RFI) for the acquisition of 110 fighter jets in 2018:

Dogfight 1.0 – the M-MRCA competition

Number of aircraft: 126
Shortlisted aircraft: 6 (4 twin-engine and 2 single-engine fighters from 6 vendors)
Status: scrapped in 2015 after an extensive process that included elaborate field trials by the IAF

Rafale from Dassault Aviation
National origin: France
Introduction: 2001
Primary users: French Air Force, French Navy, Egyptian Air Force
Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF-01-rafale.jpg
Source: HIS Jane’s Defence Weekly

Eurofighter Typhoon from Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH (a consortium of Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo)
National origin: Multinational
Introduction: 2003
Primary users: RAF, German Air Force, Italian Air Force, Spanish Air Force
Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF-02-typhoon.jpg
Source: Eurofighter.com

MiG-35 (advanced variant of MiG-29) from Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG (formerly, Mikoyan and Gurevich Design Bureau)
National origin: Russia
Introduction: 2018 (planned)
Primary users: Russian Air Force, Egyptian Air Force
Name:  03  MiG 35.jpg
Views: 11514
Size:  26.2 KB
Source: HIS Jane’s Defence Weekly

F/A-18E/F Super Hornet from Boeing Defense, Space & Security (formerly, McDonnell Douglas)
National origin: United States
Introduction: 1999
Primary users: US Navy, Royal Australian Air Force
Name:  04  F18.jpg
Views: 11556
Size:  55.8 KB
Source: HIS Jane’s Defence Weekly

F-16 Fighting Falcon from Lockheed Martin (formerly, General Dynamics)
National origin: United States
Introduction: 1978
Primary users: US Air Force, NATO partners, and many others (including Pakistan)
Name:  05  F16.jpg
Views: 11575
Size:  62.2 KB
Source: HIS Jane’s Defence Weekly

JAS 39 Gripen from Saab
National origin: Sweden
Introduction: 1997
Primary users: Swedish Air Force, South African Air Force, Czech Air Force, Hungarian Air Force
Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF-06-gripen.png
Source: Saab.com

The Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (M-MRCA) competition was aimed at filling the gap between the Tejas light combat aircraft and the Sukhoi SU-30MKI air superiority fighter, and featured the six aircraft pictured above. On 27 April 2011, after an intensive and detailed technical evaluation by the IAF, the competition was reduced to two bidders: the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Dassault Rafale. On 31 January 2012, it was announced that the Rafale had won the competition, largely due to its lower life-cycle cost. The deal however stalled due to disagreements over production in India and, on 30 July 2015, India officially withdrew the 126-aircraft M-MRCA tender. Around the same time, on 10 April 2015, Prime Minister Modi announced the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters in flyaway condition through an inter-governmental agreement with France. On 23 September 2016, Raksha Mantri Manohar Parrikar and his French counterpart signed a contract for the purchase of 36 off-the-shelf Rafales in a deal worth €7.8 billion, with an option for 18 more at the same inflation-adjusted price. The first Rafales are expected to be delivered by 2019, and all 36 jets are expected within six years. The IAF was keen on a follow-on order of 36 additional Rafales, but the Indian government is yet to take a final decision on it.

Dogfight 2.0 – the SEF programme

Number of aircraft: 114
Shortlisted aircraft: 2 (2 single-engine fighters from 2 vendors)
Status: scrapped in February 2018 after questions were raised about the narrow competition

After the M-MRCA competition had gone into a tailspin, the government came up with an alternative acquisition plan. The Single-Engine Fighter (SEF) programme was proposed in the hope that it would be easier to procure and cheaper to build. Manufacturers in the United States, Russia and Sweden were approached to see if they were interested in partnering with an Indian company to build medium, single-engine fighters, accompanied by significant transfer-of-technology (ToT) to the Indian entity. Eventually, both the United States’ Boeing/Lockheed and Sweden’s SAAB offered to set up a production line in India, for their F-16 and Gripen offerings respectively. But flip-flops by both companies on ToT, and allegations of crony capitalism, eventually led to the scrapping of the SEF tender earlier this year.

Dogfight 3.0 – déja vu all over again!

Number of aircraft: 110
Shortlisted aircraft: to be decided; new variations of the M-MRCA aircraft can be expected to compete, participation of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II would be an unexpected bonus.
Special conditions: joint production of aircraft, with 85% of the aircraft to be built in India in a partnership with a “strategic partner / Indian production agency”.

They say that past performance is not indicative of future results – if only that were true of the Government’s efforts in the present context! By most accounts it is unfortunately unlikely that there will be any immediate turnaround in the ongoing drop in the number of IAF fighters in service. Even in the most optimistic scenario it will be at least 4-5 years before the current process is complete, by which time the IAF’s fighter strength would have fallen further.

It doesn’t help that since 2003 there have been five versions of the Defence Procurement Policy (DPP 2003, 2006, 2011, 2013 and 2016), several changes to the offset clause, changes in the categories of procurement, and the introduction of the “Strategic Partnership” policy. With constant changes to (as also the introduction and withdrawal of) multiple RFPs, coupled with a convoluted decision-making process, it comes as no surprise that large-scale defence acquisition plans rarely come to fruition.

From an operational point of view, India needs fifth generation fighter jets, given that China has already inducted its fifth generation Chengdu J-20 fighters and has plans in the offing to export its first batch of Shenyang J-31 fighters (another 5th gen fighter whose likely first export customer is Pakistan).

J-20 from Chengdu Aerospace Corporation
National origin: China
Introduction: 2017
Primary users: People’s Liberation Army Air Force
Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF-07-j20.jpg
Source: Wikipedia

J-31 from Shenyang Aircraft Corporation
National origin: China
Introduction: 2018-19 (estimated)
Primary users: People’s Liberation Army Air Force, Pakistan Air Force (likely)
Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF-08-j31.jpg
Source: Wikipedia

Even if the current procurement is approved by the Government of India and all milestones are met on time, actual delivery and induction will happen only after 5-8 years. Currently, the best available fighter jets on the market are 4th and 4.5 generation fighters. While manufacturers would provide upgrades and contract negotiations would determine the number of jets and add-ons the IAF gets, this would still be a sub-optimal acquisition in terms of both cost-efficiency and operational readiness. Even if the government had stuck to its initial plan of acquiring the SEFs, it may have been touted as a success story for ‘Make-in-India’ in defence… but would have done little to truly make us combat ready.

With elections due next year, little to no progress can be expected, and it will be left to the next government to take it forward. As mentioned earlier, even if the process is fast-tracked, it will take another 4-5 years before a contract is signed and the first jet won't join the IAF till about 2025. Will the IAF want to induct 4.5 gen fighters at that time, when India’s principal adversary China has already inducted its 5th generation J-20 fighter?

Given the timeline, if the IAF were to look for a 5th generation fighter, India’s options would be restricted to Lockheed Martin’s single-engine F-35 Lightning II and the Russian twin-engine Sukhoi Su-57. But the former is unlikely to agree to production in India, and the latter is not a medium-sized fighter.

F-35 Lightning II from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics
National origin: United States
Introduction: 2015, 2016, 2018 (depending on variant)
Primary users: US Air Force, US Navy, US Marine Corps and several other countries
Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF-09-f35a.jpg
Source: Wikipedia

Su-57 from JSC Sukhoi Company (formerly, Sukhoi Design Bureau)
National origin: Russia
Introduction: 2019 (planned)
Primary users: Russian Air Force, Russian Navy, IAF
Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF-10-su57-t50.jpg
Note: this is a picture of the T-50 prototype of the Su-57, on which the FGFA/PMF is based
Source: Sukhoi.org

In any event, India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is already co-developing a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft / Perspective Multi-role Fighter (FGFA/PMF) with Sukhoi based on the Su-57 platform (having said which, on 2 September 2017, the IAF cited demanding maintenance programmes and high maintenance costs as the main reasons behind its reluctance to continue with the project). To muddy the waters further, HAL is separately developing the HAL Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), a single-seat, twin-engine, stealth all-weather multirole fighter aircraft, with the first flight scheduled to take place in 2025. The less said about the efficacy of India’s indigenous fighter programme the better… but that is another story entirely!

Last edited by Hawkeye269 : 10th April 2018 at 17:26.
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Old 10th April 2018, 18:03   #2
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Default re: Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF

Moving our of assembly line. Thanks for sharing... - Support Team
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Old 10th April 2018, 19:33   #3
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Default re: Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF

I have read about the high maintenance costs that come with the F-35; chief among them is the need to have fully air-conditioned hangars for the F-35. The air-conditioning is required apparently for the upkeep of stealth technology in the form of paint or some kind of coating on the paint. What's more, the hangars would also need to be high-pressured (a.k.a., at positive atmospheric pressure levels, much like how Pharmaceutical formulation plants operate) and the air must be kept at a certain humidity.

I'll leave it to truly knowledgeable members to comment on this, but can the IAF even foot such high maintenance bills? I am curious to know.

OT: Other stealth aircraft like the F-22, the F-104, the B-2 etc have also required such special hangars. I have read about the high operating costs of the B-2 bomber precisely due to the short-lived stealth coating.
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Old 10th April 2018, 20:28   #4
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Default re: Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF

Quote:
Originally Posted by locusjag View Post
I'll leave it to truly knowledgeable members to comment on this, but can the IAF even foot such high maintenance bills? I am curious to know.
I did watch a video somewhere about how American fighter jets are generally more delicate vs their Russian counterparts. The proof of which can be seen in the maintenance of american airforce bases vs russian ones. Russian officials say that it is because they like to be combat ready and that in a war zone you will never have spic and span bases to land and take off from. I think India would be better off pursuing their development of the FGFA with Sukhoi.

Disclaimer: I am no expert
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Old 10th April 2018, 20:36   #5
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Default re: Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF

This is tailor made for the Dassault Rafale. If you see the RFi no one other than the Rafale can give you certain things that are being demanded. This is just a way to shut down the opposition from crying scam if there would have been a huge g to g order without multiple bids.
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Old 11th April 2018, 02:03   #6
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Default re: Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF

Defence deals in our country always gets curried with everyone offering their own version of the perfect product. This includes the leaders in both sides of the coin.

Some points which i want to make:
Procuring just 36 Rafales(Is it enough or will it just be limited squadrons similar to the Mirage)
Wont this need to take into account the alliance you are buying from? An example is the eurofighter is a consortium of countries. In times of war, if one allied with your enemy does that affect the performance of your squadron or did you just buy billion dollar paperweights when it really matters?
What about the giant elephant in the room Tejas. Is it a part of the larger plan?

On a sidenote there is rumors that the current govt in the states is not very keen on the F35 as it has been plagued(is a light word here) with issues.

Do watch the movie or just this clip from Pentagon wars. If you think Indian defense procurement is insane!
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Old 11th April 2018, 02:26   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by locusjag View Post
: Other stealth aircraft like the F-22, the F-104, the B-2 etc have also required such special hangars. I have read about the high operating costs of the B-2 bomber precisely due to the short-lived stealth coating.

The F104 was not a particularly stealthy plane. As far as I know they did not require anything special. It is an old plane. The Dutch air-force flew them and I have seem them many times and visited the air force bases that housed them.

Maybe you are thinking of a different plane. It doesn't fit with the F22 and B2. Very different plane, technology and era.

It was a somewhat politically laden plane though. Lots of accidents, so it was known as the widow maker. Some conspiracy theories about the Russians having messed up the design. And of course a Royal scandal involving the Dutch queen Juliana husband Prins Bernard. He took bribes from Lockheed to influence the Dutch government to select the F104for our air force.

Still a remarkable plane! But not Stealth, it was pretty fast though, Mach 2!

Jeroen



The B2 did have initial problems with the coating I seem to recall
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Old 11th April 2018, 08:00   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IshaanIan View Post
I think India would be better off pursuing their development of the FGFA with Sukhoi.
It'll take a lot of diplomatic wrangling by India to revive the FGFA project. For all the money India put into the SU 57 development, our people were unhappy with the product outcome (lack of supercruise mostly); but moreover, I read that the Russians never allowed our people even near the aircraft during its trials. Quite some reluctance on their part to treat India as equals, from what I've read.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeroen View Post
The F104 was not a particularly stealthy plane. As far as I know they did not require anything special. It is an old plane. The Dutch air-force flew them and I have seem them many times and visited the air force bases that housed them.

Maybe you are thinking of a different plane. It doesn't fit with the F22 and B2. Very different plane, technology and era.
I was thinking of the F 117 Nighthawk; you're right.

Incidentally, I've sat inside the cockpit of a F 104 Starfighter. It's obsolete and safe enough for that to be allowed!

Last edited by locusjag : 11th April 2018 at 08:11.
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Old 11th April 2018, 14:27   #9
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Default Re: Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF

I strongly believe the government should invest in tech that is capable of detecting stealth fighters rather than developing one. Once stealth fighters are detected or within dog fighting range they are at a disadvantage due to their limited weapons carrying capability. They are also exposed the moment they fire their first missile.

I wonder what is preventing the government from deploying high resolution satellites that can see through clouds and monitor enemy airfields 24x7, use AI to alert and track stealth jets launched from these fields and monitor their flight path.

Or develop ammunition that disperse particles in the air and when stealth jets fly through these particles they stick on the surface and compromise their stealth capabilities.

Last edited by Whiplash7 : 11th April 2018 at 14:28. Reason: typo errors
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Old 11th April 2018, 16:09   #10
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Default Re: Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF

This is ridiculous. The last round of circus was extensive and exhaustive. Finally they decided to go with the Rafale. Suddenly the government changes, the old deal is scuttled and then a new circus comes to town. I assume the new bonhomie with the Americans is the reason behing scuttling the Rafale deal. Hope they do not end up buying some expensive american junk.
Sadly politics trumps real needs of the nation.
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Old 11th April 2018, 18:49   #11
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Default Re: Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF

This title of this thread has to be a joke. In fact no one other than our babus and politicians think it is a serious deal. No vendor takes us seriously any more. It is beyond ridiculous. All talk and no decisions for decades by these people. I can’t imagine how any vendor would even be interested in bidding to get business from such indecisive entities. Every delay results in exponential price increase.
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Old 11th April 2018, 19:16   #12
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Default Re: Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF

It just doesn't make sense to start another decade of the same old competition.
All the planes listed in the MMRCA where tested in trails that includes single engine F16, Gripen and twin engine F18, MIG35, Eurofighter typhoon, Rafale.

It makes sense to go with Rafale or the F18 or even the Mig 35, I say this purely on part sharing. The FA-18E will have the same General Electric F414 engine's as the Tejas Mk2 and can also be used on a aircraft carrier.
The Rafale on the other hand already has firm 30 or so orders and it also can be used by the navy in their upcoming aircraft carrier.
The MIG35 is still a glorified MIG29 with AESA radar and IAF and the indian Navy operate Mig 29, so again part sharing.
In an event of war the logistical challenge to have spares of so many type of aircraft will be a nightmare.


Quote:
Originally Posted by locusjag View Post
It'll take a lot of diplomatic wrangling by India to revive the FGFA project. For all the money India put into the SU 57 development, our people were unhappy with the product outcome (lack of supercruise mostly); but moreover, I read that the Russians never allowed our people even near the aircraft during its trials. Quite some reluctance on their part to treat India as equals, from what I've read.
Even the 4.5 gen SU35 can super cruise without afterburner, it's just that the F22 can do so at a much faster speed.
The SU57 on the other hand will get the more power full engine which should put it on par with F22 in super cruise, do note the SU57 also has larger fuel tanks, it can be in air for a longer time or use it's afterburner more often.
The new engine already started flight testing in air this year.

Last edited by aim120 : 11th April 2018 at 19:39.
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Old 11th April 2018, 19:19   #13
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Default Re: Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF

Quote:
Originally Posted by Theyota View Post
This title of this thread has to be a joke. In fact no one other than our babus and politicians think it is a serious deal. No vendor takes us seriously any more. It is beyond ridiculous. All talk and no decisions for decades by these people. I can’t imagine how any vendor would even be interested in bidding to get business from such indecisive entities. Every delay results in exponential price increase.
It is still a buyers market out there. 100 plane orders are extremely rare. Most countries buy 10 to 20 aircraft at the most and keep them for 30 years. Expect foreign aircraft manufacturers to take Dogfight 3.0 very seriously, despite restrictive conditions.

Airbus, Lockheed Rush To Tap India's $620 Billion Defense Market
https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/airb...ome-topstories
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Old 11th April 2018, 21:48   #14
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Default Re: Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF

Hawkeye 269, Thank you for this thread and your contents. Some observations from my side to add to the discussions in the fray...

As we all know the Rafale got picked out of the MMRCA evaluation. Unfortunately, disagreements between Dassault & HAL led to an impasse. Here my empathy is with HAL/IAF. Dassault, I believe acted over clever. Nevertheless France and Israel are geo-politically our most reliable partners certainly more than either the Russians or the Americans and that led to the order for 36 Rafale’s. To avoid the other contenders of the MMRCA raising a stink or filing a case or boycotting future participation (unlikely, but still) this fresh tender has been put out with every chance of it going to Rafale.

Our tender process especially in the IAF has got rather muddled first due to lack of proper foresight by the IAF and more by lack of political will and vision to carry decisions through. A generation ago the Sepecat Jaguar evaluation was completed in ~18 months and the first aircraft loaned by the RAF were on the ground in Ambala in ~36 months – and it was one of the most comprehensive evaluations done by any Air Force till that time. Almost 2 generations ago the entire story of MiG-21 went from first word to evaluation to contract to full Squadron service in 4 years and license assembly in 6 years.

These terms 5th gen, 4th gen and worse 4.5th gen are marketing phrases. As a professional one shouldn’t take them seriously. In fact these have been popularized by the Russkies since around 1995 to emphasize the superiority of their enhanced versions of the Su-27…Su-30…Su33 aircraft.

In the air technology of the aircraft counts but only if there is a big gap between the two adversaries. There are a multitude of other factors – pilot skill & training being foremost; how pilots and ground control work as a team; clarity of what your target is in the first place and what does it look like to the eye or the radar or the IR scanner; how well does the Air Force co-ordinate with the Army; how competent are we at SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defences) in the first 48 hours of a conflict; how clear are our leaders of the aims of the war and the will to fight it - In 1962 Nehru was not clear at all while in 1971 Indira Gandhi was absolutely clear and so on. The actual fighter is but the tip of the arrow. So whether we acquire gen 5 or 4 or 3.5 will matter far less than reliability, up time, availability of spares, ease of maintenance in the field, turnaround between sorties, ability to absorb damage etc. Keeping these 'real' factors in mind it may be prudent to discount the lack of maturity of F-35 & the Su-57.

On stealth – it matters upto a point, it helps up to a point. It is not an all encompassing factor as OEMs try to make it out to be. An aircraft can be stealth to a radar but not to the naked eye. An aircraft stealth to a ground radar may not be so to an AEW in the sky.

I hope the IAF & the Govt close on the Rafale and get moving. The last thing we need is another 5 year evaluation. The Rafale, like the Mirage before it, has had a solid record of reliability and that counts for a lot.
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Old 11th April 2018, 22:12   #15
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Default Re: Dogfight 3.0 - The battle to get much-needed fighters for the IAF

After exhaustive trials by the IAF ,Rafale emerged the winner in the MRCA trials.

It is very clear that Rafale is the choice of IAF.But these deals are so huge and dont rely only on what the IAF wants. How many here still remember that, Timothy J. Roemer,the then US ambassador to India resigned on the day Rafale was announced as the winner,citing "Personal reasons".

With Lockheed sounding out that they dont mind moving the entire F-16 line to India provided they get the orders,I will not be surprised one bit if this process has been opened just to get that.The Govt of the day can easily tout it as a victory to their initiative.

How else does one explain the comments from the RM in 2015 stating that 126 craft MRCA is economicaly untenable to opening the request for 110+ fighters again.Like I stated already,these deals are too simply too big and unfortunately for IAF,they will have to make do with whatever has been pushed on to them.
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