nitinm wrote:Another angle to the story! Going back 5 years! I tend to be a big fan of standardization! I have seen in so many industrial cases, it brings down costs dramatically!
We should have expedited the MRCA and tried to standardize on a carrier capable aircraft like the Rafale rather than buy the 45 units of Mig-29. Also, rather than upgrading the Mirage for something as crazy as $40m/aircraft (which is still pending), only make minor upgrades and replace it sooner.
With 126 of MRCA, I would say 200, and another 40 for the Navy, this is would have been the No 1 & No 2 biggest fighter aircraft deal in the world. Imagine the negotiation leverage and the consistency in platform. It would have made so much sense over starting a new engine line for the existing RD33 engines. Ofcourse, we need the engines for the upgrade of the existing Migs but this move will keep the line open longer and these aircrafts are going to around for decades, increasing future maintenance costs. While everyone is replacing their aging fleet of Mig-29s with Rafale, we continue to buy them anew!
First of all, who is this “everyone” that is replacing their aging fleet of MiG-29s with Rafales? Name one of them, leave alone “everyone” else
You need to look at the timelines to see that while this idea of yours may sound great, this was not possible at all.
The IN was looking for a carrier capable aircraft well before the IAF began to get really serious about the MRCA. That was a time when the IAF was still knee-deep involved in the MKI deal and obviously the Su-33 was too large for the IN, so no commonality could be found with the MKI.
The IN had 2 choices- the MiG-29K and the Rafale. The two biggest issues with the Rafale were cost and the fact that it is a CATOBAR fighter whereas the IN was getting a ski-jump assisted but arrested recovery carrier. In those days, the Rafale M wasn’t as uber-expensive as it is now due to the dollar-euro exchange rates being more favourable. Yet, it was more expensive than the MiG-29K. The former Naval Chief of Staff Admiral Arun Prakash said in an article he wrote for a Strategic Defence Review that the latter reason basically ruled out the Rafale after evaluations. He himself was personally involved in the flight evaluation and I have a pic of him (originally from B. Harry) posing with the Rafale M in France.
In the same article he went on to state that the MiG-29K variant offered all the capabilities that the IN wanted and hence it was chosen. And looking at what a fighter the MiG-29K is as we see it today it’s a fine fighter for the price tag of $45 million. The issue of standardization and commonality would have come up only if the Rafale was at that time even a contender for the MRCA- it wasn’t. Instead, the Mirage-2000 was still on offer and the IAF was toying with the idea of a Strategic Strike Command. BTW, the variant of the Rafale that was available at that time was not as great as it is now- it was the Rafale F1 and the Rafale M was similar in capability level. They had the PESA RBE-2 whose range was considered a little low and the OSF and SPECTRA suites weren’t fully ready.
So, when the IN finalized on the MiG-29K, the IAF didn’t seriously look at the MiG-29M/M2 for the MRCA and focused on the Mirages. Later on as the competition kept dragging on, that line closed and the Rafale was offered instead. By then there was no chance of any standardization because the MRCA was nowhere close to completion as the new Defence Procurement Policies were being framed.
Regarding the Mirage-2000, what is not being taken into account by most people commenting on it is the fact that it’s a package deal that includes the sale of MBDA weapons. These will surely not be restricted only to the MICA air-to-air missiles, but will have a large air-to-ground element as well. And as the IAF officer said in the article, the scope of this upgrade is larger and deeper than the MiG-29UPG upgrade. From radar, cockpit upgrades, communication and datalinks, mission computers, electronic warfare systems, HMDS to weapons, everything is going to be changed.
And the fact that he said that it will serve another 15-20 years means the OEM (Dassault) will use its fatigue test data to re-clock some of the Mirage’s airframe to make it last that long. The test data is available to the OEM because they generally keep a fatigue test specimen that undergoes accelerated fatigue tests to determine the structural life of the aircraft and whether it matches their prediction. Now, 15-20 years roughly translates to about 3000-3500 hours of additional airframe life (keeping an average use of 200 hours per year). Keep in mind that the average fleet age for the Mirages is 20 years (except for the 10 new-builds that constitute the No.10 Wolfpack), so assuming they fly 200 hours on average per year, they’d have used up nearly 4000 hours of their airframe life. Having originally had a TTL of 6000 hours means that we’re getting around 1000-1500 hours additional from the airframe after this upgrade.
So, the IAF will eventually get close to 3000 hours additional from its upgraded Mirages than its upgraded Fulcrums. That is quite a lot by any standard.
When comparing the price with the Russian upgrade for the IAF’s MiG-29s, keep in mind that it didn’t include any sale of weapons. Even while Russian weapons are cheaper, if the IAF had purchased new R-77 Adders or R-73Es or its newer variants as well as the Kh-31Ps and other air-to-ground weapons, the costs of the deal with Russia would have gone up substantially. As it stands, the MiG-29UPG can use the existing stocks that were procured for the Su-30MKI and MiG-21 Bison. However, much of this stock will need to be renewed before the MiG-29UPGs retire, as the shelf life of the weapons is also limited.
After this upgrade, the IAF’s Mirages will be at Mirage-2000-5 Mk2 level, which is good enough to counter ANY fighter in the PAF or PLAAF’s arsenal, including the brand-new F-16 Block 52s and J-10s/J-11s.
If the Indian Air Force was not happy with the Tejas, it would have made sense to finalize the MRCA 5 years ago and divert HAL's resources to development of UAVs and Helicopters, we have learned a lot, nothing wrong. I think Helicopters are going to play a very critical role in the future of Indian armed forces. If we have air superiority and after the air defense is suppressed, the helicopter is an ideal machine. Especially given the highly rugged terrain that borders India. You need to fly low and slow! Hunt down the rats!
I am not completely sure about the role of Tejas in the IAF here, help me! Some people compare it to the Mirage but its not in the same category, for one the payload is much smaller! Is the IAF going to use it like some sort of trainer or what? It is not that cheap!
I don’t understand your rant- you first talk about standardization. Then you somehow drag the Tejas into the discussion.
The IAF’s biggest worry at the end of the 1990s was the fact that its MiG-23 fleet was going to retire and so it floated the MRCA with the Mirage-2000-5 as the prime candidate due to its proven strike and multi-role capabilities. That was close to 120 airframes. Another squadron of recon MiG-25s would retire as well. That meant that nearly 6-7 squadrons worth of strike and recon aircraft were going to retire. The MRCA was primarily intended to replace those. In addition, earlier variants of the MiG-21s were going out as well in the early 2000s and they were to be followed by the MiG-27s.
As it became clear to them in the late 1990s and early 2000s that the Tejas (which would replace the MiG-21s) would be late, they got even more worried because even if the MRCA came through on time, it would lead to a shortfall in numbers as the MiG-21 squadrons wouldn’t get replaced. So get this- the Tejas was and is still, meant to be a direct weight class replacement for the MiG-21.
To make up for the shortfall in numbers as the MiG-23s would retire without getting the MRCA, the IAF ordered 37 new build Jaguars so that 2 new squadrons were added in their place. It asked for expediting the Su-30MKI intake as another measure to offset the MiG-23/MiG-21 retirements. It had to upgrade the MiG-27s so they could last longer with better avionics.
Yet, there are 6 squadrons of MiG-21 Bison that still form the backbone of our defence on the western sector. The Tejas Mk1 and Mk2 will be a direct replacement for these Bison. And from watching interviews with the Test Pilots of the Tejas, all senior IAF and IN pilots (like Gp. Cpt N Harish who was CO of No.3 Cobras), they are happy with the Tejas and see a lot of potential in it.
Initially the IAF was upset with ADA/HAL who were building as well as testing it because they felt that they were always underestimating the effort required and giving dates to the MoD that were too optimistic. However that attitude has now given way to genuine coordination and help and the IAF now has a big stake in the success of the Tejas if they want to reach the squadron numbers they’ve always wanted.
And you talk about the Tejas being expensive?! None of the MRCA fighters are anywhere close to $25-30 million per unit and only with the Tejas can they build up numbers at an affordable cost. Even bog-standard trainers like the Hawk come at $18-0 million apiece, and the newer M-346 is even more expensive! And what capability do they have to wage war? Rudimentary, to be polite. I can tell you that for sure the Tejas has the lowest RCS amongst any fighter in the IAF today and its avionics are amongst the best.
I will add another point to this- you talk about people comparing the Tejas to the Mirages? Payload wise they are not comparable but that is not a fair comparison because the Tejas was meant to replace MiG-21s not Mirages. The LCA designers aspired to be able to produce something as good as a Mirage eventually. We already know from a Test Pilot that the Tejas is easier to land than a Mirage, and that is high praise since landing is one of the most testing parts of any sortie.
I’ll tell you that the Tejas’ Flight Control System is so good that when it’s CLAW (Control Law) was first tested on the F-16 VISTA, the Test Pilots found that the F-16 was easier to control during the crucial take-off and landing phases with the Tejas CLAW than with its own CLAW itself! This remarkable fact was mentioned by none other than Air Marshal P Rajkumar in his book. He goes on to mention that when he emphasized this fact the second time during a debrief meeting to Martin Marietta Control Systems (MMCA, later on Lockheed Martin) engineers in the US, their Chief Engineer finally snapped at him “We got that Chief!”.
So don’t for a moment talk about how good the Tejas is or is not based on media reports alone. The guys who are a part of its development know what it is capable of when they commit to procure it in large numbers. India’s media is very prone to being influenced by other factors and the PR on the Tejas has been mis-managed from the very beginning, leading to every other person in India to think that this program has been a failure. That is the public sector mentality at its worst where they feel public opinion doesn’t count as their main focus remains on convincing the Govt. and then their customer.