Saturday, May 21, 2011

  • Lockheed Martin F-16IN Super Viper
Essentially an F-16 Block 60, the F-16IN is one of two single-engined aircraft in the competition. Powered by the General Electric F110-132A, the F-16IN has a Northrop Grumman APG-80 AESA radar. Lockheed Martin makes much of its combat record: more than 100,000 missions flown, and a 72-0 record in air-to-air victories.
Given that more than 4,000 units have been built, ramping up production would not be a problem - 928 F-16s have been produced by licence partners. F-16 variants are also flown by India's arch rival, Pakistan.
  • Dassault Rafale
The Rafale has yet to win orders outside France, but its single-engined predecessor, the Mirage 2000, reportedly performed well for India in the high-altitude Kargil conflict with Pakistan in 1999. In French service the Rafale has been successful in Afghanistan.
  • Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
In late October, Boeing said it was optimistic of making the MMRCA shortlist. One possible point in the Super Hornet's favour is its General Electric F414 engine, which will also power the indigenously developed Mk II version of India's Tejas light combat aircraft.
Boeing has offered India its Super Hornet International Road Map, which includes conformal fuel tanks, an enclosed weapons pod and other systems.
  • Saab Gripen IN
The Gripen IN is essentially the Gripen NG, a successor to the Gripen C/D used by the air forces of Sweden, the Czech Republic, Hungary and South Africa.
As with the Super Hornet, the Gripen IN will use a GE F414, potentially creating synergies with the Tejas Mk II. Interestingly, the original Gripen was designed to operate from roads with basic logistics support, under the assumption that in an invasion by a "larger neighbour", the Swedish air force would not have access to airfields.
Saab plays up the affordability of single-engined fighters, its complete openness to technology transfer, and Sweden's practical, common-sense design traditions.
  • Eurofighter Typhoon
"Enthusiastic support" for the Indian government's 50% offset target and technology transfer ambitions are a cornerstone of the Eurofighter bid, says consortium member BAE Systems.
Eurofighter touts the Typhoon's "swing-role" capabilities, which enable the aircraft to perform simultaneous air-to-air and air-to-surface missions. It is also actively wooing India as a full partner in the programme. With that status, India would take a share of future Typhoon sales.
  • RSK MiG-35
Formerly known as the MiG-29OVT, the MiG-35 is touted as a generation 4++ multirole fighter. It can carry a weapons load on nine external stations and is also configurable for use as a tanker.
"Upon customer request, the fighters can be equipped with all-aspect thrust-vectored RD-33MK engines, ensuring superiority in a manoeuvring dogfight," says RSK.
India has been a long-time buyer of Russian aircraft. Many observers see the MiG-35 as an outsider because the Indian air force already operates a number of Russian types, including the Sukhoi Su-30MKI at the heavy end of the fighter spectrum.