The July 20th issue of AWST has some interesting articles,which have a bearing on the contest.
First,that the IAF is getting worried about the LCA delays and needs 5 sqds. of MK-2s,which if an alternative engine is selected,will have to be tested by 2012 to be in service in 2013.The IAF is worried that a "technological gap" will occur,while the JSF will be flying by then and that the Chinese have "something similar".This is probably the key unmentioned reason why the IAF is plumping for an MMRCA,as the MK-2 development could be further delayed as the aircraft's design will have to be modified to fit a larger new engine.
The two engines,GE-414 and EJ-200 are being considered for the LCA-MK2.The EJ has an advantage,being part of EADS,who have a contract for LCA consultancy.This might boost the chances of the Eurofighter Typhoon.The Kaveri development is nowhere in the picture and is probably going to be consigned to history.
The F-22 Raptor,which is being located only at US bases for its air national guard and reserves,including Hawaii,is being lusted after by the Japanese who are offering double the cost,about $280 million per peice! The Japanese have rejected the JSF F-35 and other variants of the F-15.According to Lt.Gen.Utterbeck, in charge of 18th Air Force,from reports by "friends",the Russian SU-30s especially and MIG-29s are more reliable these days than earlier Russian aircraft.The only aircraft that can take on the Flanker is the F-22 which is why the Japanese want it.Their F-15s are outclassd by the Chinese Flankers (SU-30MKKs).The Japanese (in other media reports) are supposed to have warned the US that it would buy the Typhoon if the F-22 was not sold to it.An interesting observation is that the Japanese islands close to the Chinese mainland are about 150-200nm away,within the F-22s AESA radar range.The F-15J's radar has a range of only about 60NM.
This evaluation of the Flanker vs JSF,etc, is also borne out by earlier posted evaluations by Oz,who have rejected any further buys of F-18SHs.According to the Oz evaluation,the further upgrades of Flankers (4+ gen),with reported more powerful 3-D TVC engines and other stealth features (internal weapons bay between the modified engine intakes,smart skins,etc.) will outclass any other fighter,JSF and Eurocanards included,other than the F-22.Acquiring a cheaper more capable Flanker than an MMRCA is an option that is tempting to the IAF.It is perhaps one reason why extra Flankers are being ordered.
Another report has more details about the Georgian War and the Russian air losses to Georgian air defences,all of Russian origin.The "double-digit" Russian SAMs of the S-300 family are particularly lethal,which is why the US and Israel do not want them to be sold to Iran and Syria.Even the '80s Russian Buk-1 SAM (SA-11),is very sophisticated and shot down 4 Russian losses,including an SU-24 and a Backfire strategic bomber(sent on a tactical bombing mission),despite Russian aircraft having good EW systems.Other extra losses claimed by an independent Russian think tank due to MANPADS are questioned by US intel,which believes the Russian figures.The Russians supposedly did not plan the offensive properly,with poor ground and air coordination.
This is supposed to be the first modern air war.Future Russian SAMs,including replacements for the IGLA MANPADS series being developed will be even more difficult to counter and even stealth capability will deteriorate in the future with newer air defences.The need today therfore is for aircraft to possess the EW ability to look for "joints and seams" in the air defences' communications networks to defeat it.
From the above reports,it is clear that the future for the IAF should lie in the advanced 5th-gen tech fighter and this project is crucial to the IAF's future regional air dominance and must be given top priority in funding and development (this is because the first flight of the PA-FA 5th-gen fighter si to take place later this year and production expected in 5 years time when the LCA-MK-2 is also scheduled to be in production!).Acquiring extra 4+ gen.SU-30MKIs,upgrades of serving aircraft and building more upgraded Jaguars and MIG-29/35s in addition,is the cheapest and common-sense way to go,if the need for the MMRCA is to make up numbers at a cost-effective price.Perhaps only the Typhoon and Rafale are the aircraft which will have a long future ahead and remain relevant if our intention is to acquire cutting edge tech. as a key priority also.The F-16 and F-18 belong to the past,with the MIG-35 a decade ahead in design.The dark horse is the Gripen,but if it comes with US strings is a dead duck,but offers a cost-effective alternative if the LCA stumbles.The IAF should take a close look at the future plans and aspirations of other air forces around the globe if we plan to spend $10 billion on just this important acquisition.
PS:March,there is a pic in the "F" Mag,of the upgraded 4+ Flanker with an internal weapons bay between the two engine trunkings,also featuring redesigned intakes.The space is huge,I've even walked between the aircraft.Greater use of composites assist stealth and an earlier issue reveals details of the three layers of wing coatings which are the key to the F-22's stealth.