My take on each MRCA contender

Discussion in 'Indian Air Force' started by ashdoc, Feb 4, 2011.

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  1. ashdoc

    ashdoc Senior Member Senior Member

    Jul 21, 2010
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    My analysis of all six fighters--

    first , the F-16......

    what are its pros ??

    its a proven combat aircraft , has a great record in both air to air and strike missions in real combat.

    has AESA radar which is proven , unlike the european aircrafts' AESA radars which are not yet ready .

    the block 70 version has really long range , longer even than the larger-sized sukhoi 30 that india has .

    like the block 60 for UAE , it has all internally fitted pods for targetting , so weapon stations are free.

    what are its cons ??

    its an old , outdated airframe now ; other nations are moving towards newer aircraft .

    pakistan has it , so it knows the aircraft inside out , and knows how to counter it .

    US itself is going to replace it's own fleet of F-16s with F-35 , so no mid-life upgrades will be available 15 years down the line when india wants to upgrade it .

    lastly , the US has a propensity of slapping sanctions on a country at any given time , which may ground the entire fleet for lack of spares , so the US remains a notoriously unreliable supplier .

    the F-18......

    First ,the pros.....

    its has a proven AESA radar , like that of the F-16.

    as a strike aircraft , it is great . it can fire a range of sophisticated air to surface weapons . india may opt for an aircraft more suited for the strike role , as it already possesses an air dominance aircraft ( sukhoi 30 MKI ) , but does not have an advanced strike aircraft , its jaguars and mig 27s being too obsolete .

    it can fight BVR air-to-air engagements as well , with its AESA radar and active BVR missiles, and this is important , as more of air-to-air engagements may occur at BVR range in future ( though not all ).

    its F414 engines have been selected for powering the LCA Tejas mark 2 indigenous aircraft of the indian air force , and commonality of engines could see the f-18 get ahead of other competitors .

    price is lower .


    its not exactly a new airframe , and america has stopped buying it , except for the electronic warfare version ( growler ).

    like the F-16 , it comes from america , and americans are prone to slap sanctions that can put the entire fleet in jeopardy .

    it is not so good in dogfights , and can be shot down if the adversary gets too close ..

    its combat radius ( 1100 km ) is not so great , and its weapon carrying tonnage is not great either , especially if you consider that it is a large aircraft .


    Boeing ( the aircraft's manufacturer ) has offered india a more advanced version of F-18 with conformal fuel tanks and internal targetting pods like the f-16 block 70 , which will give more combat radius .

    the rafale......

    the pros.....

    its a nimble aircraft , good in dogfights .

    it has advanced cockpit , and the formidable SPECTRA electronic countermeasures system which gives virtual stealth......the rafale promoters prefer to call it discreet , not stealthy , but it remains the aircraft hardest to detect among the 6 MRCA contenders . SPECTRA also has an advanced IRST ( infra red search and track ) .

    has the longest combat radius among the 6 contenders --no less than 1850 km , due to its internal fuel capacity of 5700 liters ,and external carrying capacity ( on three external fuel tanks ) of 9000 liters .

    france is offering a full range of air to air and air to surface guided weapons , with full transfer of technology .

    its a formidable strike aircraft with advanced guided weapons , with true deep strike capacity .


    its real problem is that it has a radar ( RBE-2 ) with a low ( by the standards of today , at least ) air to air detection range of 100 km , which is only half of the range of the radar of the F-16 block 52s that pakistan has . the range is low because france depends on AWACS , which it has in large numbers , for air to air detection , which will give the co-ordinates of incoming enemy aircraft to the rafale by data-link. but other nations like india , which have a much larger space to defend , and less AWACS in numbers ,are hardly going to accept this . this is the primary reason why the rafale has failed to win even a single export contract , and remains its biggest bane . reportedly , france has offered a AESA radar with 40 percent increase in range , but indian air force officers were not impressed by it .

    reportedly , france wanted an aircraft which was more tilted to the strike role , as its earlier mirage 2000s were more suited for air to air combat ( though they had strike potential too , as india discovered in kargil war ) , but the decision was obviously wrong as the mirage 2000 had better export success due to this very factor ( of air to air capability ), while the rafale has not succeded ( so far ) due to its poor BVR capability .

    its also expensive , though less than the eurofighter .

    The Eurofighter Typhoon--


    Its a great dogfighter , and eurofighter pilots are trained to withstand upto 12 g maneuvers as compared to pilots of other aircraft , who are trained to withstand 9 g maneuvers .

    It has supercruise , that is , it can fly at supersonic speeds without switching on its afterburners , and thus can fly supersonic for extended periods than other fighters , thus outrunning other fighters. ( afterburners use up a lot of fuel )

    It is a formidable beyond visual range fighter , and its combination with the meteor long range missile is truely lethal .

    Next to Rafale , its not so easy to detect on radar .

    It can fly at 65,000 feet , 8,000 feet above the highest height that other fighters can climb , so it can simply fly above the other fighters where their missiles will find it hard to reach it .


    all these goodies come at an expensive price . if india decides to buy it , it may find it hard to fit the eurofighter in its budget.....and even harder to increase the number of its ordered planes , as it may do if other fighters are selected.

    it has less ground attack potential than rafale or f-18.

    p.s.-- eurofighter is doubtlessly the best of the contenders , but its only real problem is its price . can india afford the big question .

    Mig 35--

    This is nothing but an extensively redesigned mig 29 aircraft , but the redesign has given it capabilities that take it to a totally different league than the earlier aircraft .


    let me remind that the russians are to aircraft what germans are to motorcars , and the hallmark of russian planes is power , performance and ruggedness .

    coming to the main topic , mig 35 has the ZHUK-ME AESA radar , and along with that a unique optical locator system ( OLS ) . The OLS , which was developed from the russian space programme combines infra-red search and track with TV guidance , and thus can detect air and ground targets without opening the radar . as radar is likely to be detected by RWR ( radar warning receivers ) of enemy aircraft , the OLS makes it possible to detect enemy targets without informing him of the aircraft's approach . this data is fed into the helmet-mounted sighting system of the pilot.

    it has overcome the deficiencies of the mig 29 , and has longer range , and its engines dont have to be overhauled regularly like the mig 29s engines , and are smokeless .

    it can carry out complex missions like air combat and reconnaisance and ground strike in the same mission , and has complete multi-role ability .

    it has multi-axis thrust vector controls on its engines , and can carry out astonishing manuevers with ease, stupefying those who watch them--terrific dogfighting ability .

    cons --

    if we buy it ,nearly our entire fleet will be based on russian aircraft , and no sane country buy everything from the same buyer . what if something happens ( like a revolution in russia ) and russia cant supply spares for example ?? our entire fleet will be grounded .

    its like its old rival ,the f-16--based on an old airframe .

    the mig 29 didnt give india a great experience , and the fleet was grounded for long periods for lack of spares and constant engine overhauling . though the engine has rectified the problems , its still an uprated version of the old engine--india doesn't know whether to trust it .

    its AESA radar is not mature like the american's radars .

    it has less ground attack potential than rafale or f-18.

    JAS 39 Gripen --

    pros --

    its a lightweight fighter , yet it's capable of multirole warfare .

    The Gripen NG version that SAAB company is offering has a combat radius of 1300 km --thats good for a lightweight aircraft .

    Its capable of network -centric warfare with multidimensional datalinks .

    it has a superb and advanced cockpit with 3 multi-function displays and wide angle head up display .

    it's role can be changed form air combat to ground strike to reconnaissance by just changing the software of its computers .

    it can take off from roads , and does not require runways or much support personell .

    it is powered by the same F 414 engine that has been selected for tejas , and commonality of engine could tilt the balance in its favour .

    all this comes at a lower price as far as money is we can buy more gripens

    if LCA fails , we could buy more Gripens too .

    cons --

    its engine is american , so sanctions slapped by america could effectively ground the fleet.

    compared to eurofighter it is less capable .

    has only seven weapon points .
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2011
    Rage likes this.
  3. RebateKing

    RebateKing Regular Member

    Jan 27, 2011
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    pretty good summary, I think two areas are missing
    1. Support infrastructure
    F-16/18, EuroFighter and Grippen would require completely support infrastructure.
    2. future upgrade / roadmap
    OP mentioned F-16, but I have similar doubts on Rafale, Mig-35 and even Gripen.On the flip side, choosing one of those models probably will India the maximum on ToT.
  4. ashdoc

    ashdoc Senior Member Senior Member

    Jul 21, 2010
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    the best in the lot is undoubtedly the eurofighter .

    but it is very costly . if we decide to buy it , we may not be able to increase the number of planes from the now planned 126 to 200 , like we have progressively increased the sukhois from the planned 190 to 272 .


    i wouldn't mind the rafale , inspite of its bad export record of zero exports and deficiency in beyond visual range combat.

    because , in this era of stealth , its the one aircraft which is difficult to detect on radar among the 6 contenders thanks to use of advanced composites like carbon fibre in its manufacture , and SPECTRA , its electronic warfare system with virtual stealth technology ..

    secondly , it may not be a great beyond visual range fighter , but india already has one , and that too in considerable numbers--the sukhoi 30 MKI. What india needs is a long range strike aircraft , as its strike aircraft like jaguar and mig 27 are getting old, and rafale is eminently suited for the task .
    in fact , it would be our first genuine strike aircraft as the jaguar and mig 27 hardly qualify as strike aircraft--their range , weapon capacity is too low , and they lack a terrain avoidance radar for low level flight which is essential for strike missions . they failed utterly in the kargil war , and in the end , india had to rely on the mirage 2000 for laser guided bombing . the jaguar and mig 27 are nothing but ' bomb trucks ' , not capable of firing advanced guided missiles .

    thirdly , india is going to upgrade its mirage 2000s , and the upgrade will use the same technology as rafale ( as both are french aircraft ), creating commonality , and reducing costs --less money will be required for creating infrastructure .

    fourthly , if the wishes of the IAF personnel are taken into consideration , they all give thumbs up to rafale.....they had a great experience with the mirage 2000 , and always wanted more french aircraft . the wish was never granted by our unheeding govt , but here's a chance to make amends .


    if there is a rationale for buying the eurofighter , it lies in the fact that in a two front war , if we are attacked by both pakistan and china , we may require more advanced air combat aircraft rather than strike aircraft-- the number of aircraft attacking us in such a scenario may be greater than 1500 , so air defence will be our priority .


    when all the 126 MRCAs are delivered, we will already have all the 272 sukhois , so we will have nearly 400 advanced aircraft + Upgraded 50 mirage 2000s and 70 mig will make our air force a major power in the asia-pacific .

    it will be equal to the air forces of israel ,turkey , japan , france , south korea , germany , britain etc . the only air forces better will be china's , russia's and of course the USA .
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2011
  5. anoop_mig25

    anoop_mig25 Senior Member Senior Member

    Aug 17, 2009
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    well till few moments before i was routing for rafale but as its low radar i think mig-35(allthough not good option) would better option as its something called OLS but not good AESA radar
  6. natarajan

    natarajan Senior Member Senior Member

    Jul 28, 2009
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    you can very well do it in mrca discussion as if each member starts a thread we will be spammed by threads
  7. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

    Mar 24, 2009
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    You can have all your takes in the MRCA threads. Please use that.
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