Eurofighter Vs. Rafale: The Indian MMRCA Shortlist
For the past several months the defense community and its attendant fanboys have been waiting with bated breath for the MMRCA finale. The Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft program is an Indian Air Force initiative to replace its aging MiG-21 fleet. The program specifications originally required 126 aircraft, a number that’s since been revised.
The good news—for the French at least—is the remaining contenders are the EADS* Eurofighter Typhoon and the Dassault Rafale. Both aircraft are currently enforcing a NATO no-fly zone in Libya, a distinction which means their respective capabilities are given a much needed publicity boost.
The sore losers, however, are an impressive list of proven elite fighter aircraft. Traditional arms supplier Russia got snubbed when its MiG-35 didn’t make the cut. The same cruel fate met not one, but three American entries, namely the F-16, the F-18, and even the F-35. Also excluded was Saab’s export success the Gripen.
A recent development on MMRCA, which has become the world’s favorite high stakes arms deal, is news that the IAF will be increasing their orders with several dozen additional aircraft, totaling 189 once a technology-transfer agreement is fulfilled. The surprise increase is no doubt going to drive up the already impressive $10 billion price tag of the whole program.
The factors that will likely influence the final decision are the stuff of endless speculation. For the Rafale, the delta winged fighter-precision bomber operates on both runways and carriers, an ideal feature considering India’s naval ambitions. On top of this, India maintains a fleet of Mirage 2000’s, so the previous business with Dassault could leave the Rafale in good standing.
The Eurofighter Typhoon, on the other hand, has the track record and is widely exported.
The final word on the MMRCA arrives at year’s end. Until then, fans of either the Rafale or Eurofighter Typhoon should keep their fingers crossed.
* A European consortium.