Thursday, May 19, 2011

MiG Failed But Not Forgotten: MMRCA Defeat…

by Konstantin Bogdanov

As part of the tender for the purchase of India's MMRCA fighters took a step toward completion: selected two interim winner. "King for a day now consolidate efforts in the final. Loser it is time to think about how and what to do next. Date decided did not pull the cat's tail. Three weeks had passed since the reported extension of "deal of the century" - MMRCA tender to supply 126 medium fighter for the Indian Air Force as the new leadership of South Asian hegemon boldly cut the list of contenders for the tasty $10 billion from six to two points


On the way out were asked the Swedish SAAB with JAS-39NG Gripen, MiG with the MiG-35 and two overseas competitors: Boeing and Lockheed Martin with the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-16IN Super Viper respectively. We have to congratulate the lucky ones: Eurofighter Typhoon and especially French Dassault Rafale.

The battlefield remains for the two unlucky offspring of a single program of the European fighter aircraft, collapsed in 1985* because of disagreement in a critically important dogma of excess tonne design weight of the machine (it is worth to mention that later in this limit is not missed, both teams of developers).

*The French Rafale started after France pulled out of the Eurofighter program in 1985.


Sourly & bitter…

If the reaction in Stockholm and Moscow to the Indian affront can be described as very, very restrained, almost phlegmatic, almost in the style of "not very much and wanted to", Washington seems to have got a really painful blow to his vanity. Demonstrative resignation of U.S. Ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer, "for personal and professional reasons" best illustrates the depth of frustration of the American political leadership. By the same logic of infantile resentment built emotional statements about the "profound disappointment" and really quite irrelevant claims to justify the decision of the tender commission.

But in all honesty, there was a sense why Americans so deeply believe in their success? Of course, F/A-18 after powerful PR-and GR-campaign, marching in the autumn of last year, quite reasonably took the second place among the favorites. Moreover, several experts pointed out that the feature set of "Hornet" fit into the device for a MMRCA fighter almost perfectly, and the same does not go for Rafale.

But the Americans relentlessly exposed the yard. And not just naked politics brazenly interfered in the matter. Washington is very sparingly and reluctantly goes to the transfer of technologies, preferring, where possible, to trade "finished textiles”. From Pentagon officials it is literally necessary to draw out permissions to the transfer of technological documentation. Although US aircraft manufacturing giants, are not averse to share technology with third countries - that's triple profit: for the current supply, for consulting and engineering for future sales, whose logic is due to the choice of know-how.

U.S. willing to sell finished products, with detailed instructions for use (however contrary to this contract  - a fancy system of restrictions on the use of weapons and launched). However, to supply technologies to India, including Advanced/Airborne Fixed-Array Radar (AFAR), sighting systems, modern avionics, etc., Sovereign People from Washington are clearly not in a hurry.

For Delhi, this approach is absolutely unacceptable. India is not a banana republic, where you can "imply" fighter as a "black box"** in the castrated version (see, for example, "Colonial version with lots of money" ). If a country wants to play in the Indian market of military equipment, it will have  to share their know-how and invest in the localization of high-tech products. Russians & Europeans assimilated with these rules by Delhi. For Americans, the law in India has not yet written and it seems we are now seeing the first failure in the arrival of the Yankees in a strange monastery with its statute - as one of the factors prevailing in failure of the services of Boeing and Lockheed  to Delhi.

**In science and engineering, a black box is a device, system or object which can be viewed solely in terms of its input, output and transfer characteristics without any knowledge of its internal workings.

In addition, there is considerable suspicion that if Republicans win the presidential election in 2012 and withdrawal of Obama from the White House; warm US-Indian friendship may cool down in favor of more "traditional" allies of Washington, like the same arch rival of Delhi - Islamabad. Because of U.S. policy of isolationists, & provided that US is never shy when it comes to what they consider "national interest", India has to seriously consider the likelihood of a negative scenario, in which she risks a virtual standstill with the United States in the middle of the implementation of offset programs.

And there is another side to the coin. Among the Indian military are many factions and clans, sometimes with a very bizarre political and business interests, and the presence of Russian "defense industry" on the Indian subcontinent has a long-standing and allowed to form a whole layer of people, mentally focused on the purchase of Russian military equipment. Leaking confidential & technical information to Russia about the US planes, being supplied to Indian air force, may inhibit Americans in limiting the transfer of information at an early stage of the tender.


France vs. Europe

Despite the apparent reduction in intrigue, in the second phase of the tender it is clearly expected the activation of courting the Indian military elite by the two remaining competitors. Already in the ability to "submit themselves" to the market of third countries the European defense industry has thrived for decades, as well evidenced by an endless trail of corruption scandals, the crown which became a notorious case of the Al-Yamamah deliveries by BAE to Saudi Arabia Tornado jets.


"Typhoon" has long been considered the favorite for the contest. In particular, it is actively lobbying senior British politicians. Weakness of "Typhoon"  is the versatility of the project: to solve the problem with so many beneficiaries** is much harder than one, especially when it comes to corruption schemes.

** The Eurofighter Typhoon is designed and built by a consortium of three companies: Alenia Aeronautica, BAE Systems, and EADS; working through a holding company, Eurofighter GmbH, which was formed in 1986.

However, this weakness is overshadowed  in contrast, from their colleagues "Dassault Rafale" which is not a finished product yet. According to some experts, if Euro-Consortium invite Indians to some form of participation in the program of the fighter with the localization of production sites, the impact of Delhi on the final shape of the resulting aircraft may be as much greater than in the case of the Rafale. Though such a proposal would be difficult to pass.

Other experts also believe that the favorite is just the Rafale, and associate it with the strategy of Delhi in the policy of military-technical cooperation. In military aviation in India already have a French fighter Mirage 2000.

Under this approach, the inclusion of South Asian powers for new aircraft of the Fifth Republic is a kind of tool access to modern French technology. The question of the extent and level of trade: for the supply of 126 "Rafales" procured by the French Air Force in small quantities and has absolutely did not find success in the global aviation market , New Delhi is able to bargain for a lot of interesting things. And definitely much more than a side project: advancing the modernization of existing Mirage.

By the strong points of Rafale, as has been said, relates the fact that the French, unlike Euro-Consortium can work on a method of "one window". And so in this case legal methods of solving problems will not apply (wherewith the history of French military and technical cooperation with third countries is rich and plentiful).

One thing that other competitors don’t posses is the ability to mass produce complex equipment like AFAR (in a short notice), that is so easily achieved by Russians & the Americans. It seems that both Paris and London promised something to Delhi; in fact, they (probably) promised a lot, and the promises were convincing. It's not hard to guess that in order to sell something that doesn't exist yet, the seller must make extra discounts.

Worth a closer look at  how the story will evolve with the tender in order to understand which of the two former colonial empires is ready to bring more offerings to the foot of the throne of the Mughals.

Be that as it may, but results so far achieved  for Russian aircraft manufacturers, in spite of the formal failure MiG, are strategically important. Technological structure of the Indian market of military aviation will not change. Whichever of the two aircraft selected or awarded victory in the Indian Air Force will remain the same players as before: the British, French and us. So it was in the 60's, when Delhi used the MiG-21 and the "Hawker Hunters" with "Dassault Mystère". So it was in the 80's, when the MiG-27 side by side with the Jaguar and MiG-29 stood next to the "Mirage". There are things that India has not changed for decades, because they are caused by well-constructed state strategy of diversification of suppliers, despite the seemingly enormous plane ‘Bazar’.


Not fatal, but anxious

Panic in the national press about the failures of MiG, leading some analysts to sudden stunning conclusions of dissolving MiG firm, is devoid of any foundations. At least already even without MMRCA the MiG cooperation for the next several years is noticeably loaded by orders- as confirmed by external and internal perceived orders.

MiG specific position in India is looking strong. These are primarily contracts for the supply of deck-based fighters MiG-29K/KUB: 16 planes for 730 million dollars already in place and another 29 fighters over 1.2 billion will be further raised to 2015.

In the second place we are talking about upgrading 62 machines MiG-29B/UB (series 9-12B) received by India from 1986 to 1995. This project was designated MiG-29UPG and, according to press reports, Russian aircraft manufacturers will receive 964 million dollars. Package of improvements includes installation of an additional fuselage fuel tank and equipment for in-flight refueling, installation of digital control for the RD-33 3-series, board radar Zhuk-ME, as well as a completely new cabin with a multi-function LCD displays. The aircraft is able to use air-to-air missile R-77 and a number of air-to-ground missiles (X-29T general purpose antiship Kh-31A, Kh-31P antiradar, guided aerial bombs with laser-guided KAB-500 and so on .). A high degree of commonality with the package of equipment for the MiG-29K, which ensures the alignment between the work of these two contracts.

However, in the third world there is a definite market transformation: F-16 seems to finally concede their place to F-35, which potentially opens up for the  MiG planners to develop a line of modernized MiG-29, to fill  the markets of poor countries which are armed with early blocks. This, of course, is a very hypothetical situation, but the automatic replacement of these vehicles on an unnecessarily expensive and complex F-35 looks really quite fantastic.

Much more likely to clinch Russia is China, who clearly intends to get into this same market of cheap light aviation with its "Fierce dragon” FC-1, also known as the JF-17. But that's a separate story, the more so in the Celestial Empire, with its relatively low-tech engine (remember that export JF-17 is so far flying on the Russian RD-93).

Of course, it's hard to argue that the loss of the contract of $10 billion is a serious blow to the already dilutes MiG economy. It is obvious that obtaining this large order would seriously simplify the fast solution of the urgent and gotten overripe problem of the technological modernization of production, and it would also ensure the pointing of the debts accumulated in corporation.

Hard to argue with the fact that the refusal of Indian pilots on MiG-35 is expected to complicate the 2020 deliveries of these aircraft for Russian Air Force (since due to the decrease of the total volume of order it will raise in price the bought machines), although it is unlikely to lead to a complete abandonment of them, but it will create a long-winded & complex future scenario..

Still, the incident once again raises questions about the big strategy for managing complex aviation industry of the country, & the changes in designing perspectives happening in MiG cooperation. Availability of the current export contracts, of course, pleases, but what can we say about the internal orders? Hypothetical thus far are the purchase of MiG-35 to replace its older brothers in the line units & so is hypothetical the supply for the naval version of the aircraft. Will there be big enough scientific and industrial segment diverted to the role in development and production of the newest models (for example the lightweight fighter of the fifth generation or heavy impact drones), for now it is completely unclear.


Post a Comment

Have a say...