Vishnu wrote: I believe there is merit in the argument that the selection process was NOT objective.
There may be truth in the argument that according to the 600 + technical parameters planes were assessed on .. NONE of the jets made it.
I entirely accept the argument that the IAF SHOULD get the jet is truly wants ... in which case ... this entire tender process is a joke ... where companies end up spending upwards of 25 million dollars to fly down jets to get them evaluated in what is, realistically, a lost cause for them.
As an example .. Did the IAF really need the F-16 to fly down to India for it to be failed on the grounds that its design life was reaching an end ? (Assuming that this was the thinking in the IAF). Did the Gripen really need to fly down a prototype to India for the IAF to be convinced that the jet was still a product in development? Or is it really fair that the jets that did badly in the technical trials were assessed on the basis of one bad day (the Leh high altitude tests for example). CISMOA and other intrusive US laws were ALWAYS present ... If the IAF was concerned about these (assuming that they were) ... then why invite the US jets for the tender in the first place ?
Somebody told me yesterday ... slightly exaggerated ... but interesting nonetheless ... "Its like the IAF was told to go to a showroom to buy a sports car and they said `Give me that gorgeous red Ferrari !" Sure, the Ferraris in this case, the Rafale and the Typhoon are incredible platforms ... NO disputing that ... its just the process I am questioning ...
Vishnu, I have followed your posts with some regularity and found them to be quite informative.
This is the first instance where I would vehemently disagree with you. Not because of the face value of the arguments you make, but because I find the underlying facts to be mistaken.
With all due respect, let me point out a few big ones:
a) IAF/MoD never specified specific planes or versions to the vendors. It was LM's decision to field or not to field F-16, and what version to field. As was Boeing's to field a version of SH that was diluted (as Rakesh has correctly pointed out). Similarly, it was upto SAAB to decide on Gripen, and for Dassault to field either M2K-5 or Rafale. Gripen could have chosen to not fly the prototype to India. They had sufficient notice of time to decide whether or not they were ready to fly-in.
b) The 600+ criteria were known to all vendors in advance, as were the conditions under which these aircraft were to be tested. They could easily have chosen to not participate, modify designs, etc.
c) Was it fair? Fairness is a very loose word and too easily redefined by slight changes in context and perspective. With 600+ criteria one could easily change definition of fairness. As you have pointed out, change in a few would have easily qualified all.
d) It is misleading to make arguments based on number of criteria by saying -- "oh well, out of the 600+ criteria, if 10 were this way or that way, then ....". The 10 which make the difference might be most critical factors. Say for instance -- does the plane fly? vs. commonality in tires with other aircraft. Both a single criteria but with vastly different consequences.
e) Similarly, misleading is the argument about "one bad day in Leh". That one bad day would be the one when a rational enemy decides to attack Leh knowing your aircraft will not be taking off or will not be able to carry the necessary payload. It is not a matter of tuning like some have pointed out -- but a far more complex engineering problem of optimizing the design. Tuning might allow an aircraft to take off, but will it allow it to carry the payload, what about runway length requirements, what about climb rates, what about...
f) Finally, the cost of $25 million that you mention. The extensive evaluations undertaken by IAF were not free either! Should IAF charge the vendors for the detailed feedback on the aircraft that they are sharing with them? What would a consulting company charge for that thorough an evaluation? So, it cuts both ways -- IAF could make an argument that it is not fair that some vendors, knowing all the criteria and evaluation program, should field half-baked and/or diluted aircraft and take advantage of IAF's commitment to evaluate all thoroughly. In the same vein, one could argue that they wasted the time.
All that said -- it boils down to something simple. Were the requirements clear to the vendor at the onset? Was it clear about the process to be followed? If the answer is Yes to both, then it is not for vendor or IAF to question fairness about the process. Vendors made an informed decision to participate and IAF followed through with its promise to evaluate (whether or not the aircrafts were half-baked/diluted/etc.). Had IAF rejected F-16 or Gripen on one basis or another like you said -- Vendors would have complained that they were not even given a chance to participate in the evaluation and rejected without due process.