SOURCE: KARTIKEYA SEMWAL / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
For long Indian Air Force (IAF) has been having the requirement of 114 fighters after it scrapped the 126 MMRCA (Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft) deal and purchased 36 Rafale fighters from France. The new MMRCA-2 called the MWF (Medium Weight Fighter) will acquire 114 new medium combat jets from a foreign company along with full TOT (Transfer of Technology) to manufacture the jet fighters completely in India, including it’s spare parts.
For this, the winning foreign company will also have to partner with an Indian defence firm, & share their technical know-how with them. Now we all know that there are as many as 6 foreign companies from as many countries, which are vying for to get the MWF order of 114 fighter jets. Here, we will focus on just 2 of them namely- Dassault Aviation of France & Mikoyan Consortium of Russia. While Dassault brings it’s most advanced combat jet Rafale, Mikoyan brings it’s modern Mig-35 (also known as upgraded version of Mig-29). Both are 4.5++ gen. fighters and both pack a punch when it comes to air combat, air-superiority, dogfight and suppressing enemy airforce.
But there’s a change in Mig-35 that is being offered to India under the MMRCA-2 or MWF fighter program. Mikoyan Consortium is offering a completely new and customized Mig-35 jet to India that has been made while keeping requirements of IAF in mind. Not just that, Russia is offering this modern 4.5++ gen. jet to India at 20% less price than that offered by any other foreign jet fighter producing company. Along with transferring full TOT to India, Russia & it’s company Mikoyan Consortium is ready to upgrade the Mig-35 jet and it’s avionics in future in India itself. Not just that, they will also give India license to produce it’s spare parts in India itself. In one line- Russia is offering an IAF-specific jet fighter to India, which is not the case with Rafael offered by French firm Rafale. This makes it a very lucrative deal for India.
On the other hand, the French fighter Rafale is a fighter of it’s class. In modern arena, Rafale F3R being offered to India under the MWF is the most advanced 4.5++ gen. fighter that can even go up against 5th gen. fighters and bring them down. This is an important point to be noticed as we all know that India’s cunning neighbor China has developed it’s own 5th gen. fighter called J-20. Now the only problem with Rafale is that it is too costly. It’s per unit cost is 91.75 € million while that of a Mig-35 is 44.95 € million. Which means that India can buy 2 Mig-35s in the price of 1 Rafael. This is a considerable amount as IAF wants a jet that comes in both- quality and quantity.
Again, there is a catch as to why India should go for Rafael jet and not for Mig-35. The reason is simple- get a jet that is not with the enemy (China). We all know that China has acquired 2 squadrons of Mig-35 jets from Russia. Now if IAF wants to keep an edge against China, then they need to buy a jet which is better than the one present with China. And the answer to this is Rafale. Another reason why India should go for Rafale is avoiding too much dependence on Russian jets. It should be noted that 70% of IAF’s inventory comprises of Russian jets that include Mig series of jets & Sukhoi fighters. Russian jets always had an issue of spare parts which keep falling short in IAF’s inventory. And since India doesn’t have license to produce them, they have to be imported from Russia, which takes a lot of time & efforts.
If India goes for Rafale fighters, all these issues will be addressed as Dassault will provide license for production of spare parts to it’s Indian counterpart (partner) company. Rafael also happens to be the more superior aircraft when compared to Mig-35, and can be upgraded in future to match the level of 5th gen. fighters.
But my opinion as a defence blogger is that since India has to act cost-effectively, so it must buy 36 additional Rafale along with transfer of certain critical technologies and parts; and opt for Mig-35 for the remaining 78 aircrafts in it’s MMRCA-2/MWF jet fighter program. This way, India will not only get advanced modern-day technologies from two different countries; but also it will be able to buy more jet fighters in less time to address the problem of depleting fighter squadrons. Not just that buying addition 36 Rafale will take their total numbers to 72 jets that will equip 4 squadrons of IAF, 3 of which can be deployed on eastern front while the 4th squadron can be deployed on the western front to deal with the threat of 2-sided war with China & Pakistan.
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