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The Indian Air Force (IAF) is gearing up to procure 114 fighter jets under the Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) tender, and the competition is heating up. Recent reports by “The Print” have revealed that three contenders have emerged as the top candidates to supply these aircraft. Boeing’s F-15EX, Saab’s Gripen-E, and Dassault’s Rafale are vying for this prestigious contract. This race has brought back memories of a previous competition in 2012, where the Eurofighter Typhoon was a front-runner in a now-cancelled tender for 126 jets under the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) program.

In the 2012 MRCA competition, the Eurofighter Typhoon, alongside the Dassault Rafale, was one of the top contenders. The Eurofighter successfully cleared all technical evaluation rounds, showcasing its impressive capabilities. However, the Eurofighter ultimately lost the contract bid to the Rafale due to pricing. Dassault, the French firm behind the Rafale, emerged as the lowest bidder for the $10 billion contract, securing the deal.

The Eurofighter Typhoon is a collaborative effort of European aerospace giants, including the German and Spanish branches of EADS, BAE Systems from the UK, and Italy’s Finmeccanica. It enjoyed substantial political support from the participating Eurofighter nations, with Germany and the UK actively advocating for its selection.

Fast forward to 2023, and the Eurofighter Typhoon faces new challenges. This time, it may find itself at a disadvantage in the early stages of the MRFA tender. Germany’s government has adopted a strict stance on arms exports, which could potentially affect the Eurofighter’s chances. Germany and France have had longstanding disagreements regarding defence exports, with France being more lenient towards India in terms of fighter jet usage. Germany, on the other hand, has not been as accommodating.

The German government has, on several occasions, cited human rights concerns as a reason to interfere in arms sales. In the past, it even denied the sale of German small arms to Indian paramilitary forces, expressing concerns over their potential use in conflict areas like Kashmir and the Northeast. Germany’s stance on arms exports was notably visible when Berlin halted arms sales to Saudi Arabia following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. The controversy revolved around additional Eurofighter jets that Saudi Arabia wished to procure, and the German government ensured they were not supplied.

While the United Kingdom is leading the Eurofighter campaign in India, there are doubts about Germany’s involvement in the long term. Many in India are sceptical about the German government’s potential interference in the usage of the jets or imposing stringent service conditions. India, in its quest for modern and reliable defence equipment, is not inclined to entertain such supplier restrictions.

Given these considerations, there is a high likelihood that the Eurofighter Typhoon may face an early exit from the MRFA tender, especially after the Request for Proposal (RFP) stages. The competition to supply 114 fighter jets to the Indian Air Force continues to intensify, and each contender strives to meet India’s stringent requirements while avoiding any potential hindrances.

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