Indian MRCA Competition - Requirements


The IAF projected a requirement for about 126 aircraft in 2001, when the strength was at 39.5 squadrons (down from 45). There is an option for an additional 74 aircraft. Initial requirements appeared to be for a 20-ton class fighter aircraft with the Mirage 2000 as the strongest contender. However, the 20-ton MTOW limit requirement has reportedly been removed. Also, considering the delays in the bidding, it is very likely that the LCA would be ready for induction by then. The IAF then would require replacements for its frontline strike aircraft like the MiG-27 and Jaguar, which would be retiring by 2015. India's future 5th-generation aircraft, namely, the Russo-Indian Sukhoi/HAL FGFA and the indigenous Medium Combat Aircraft will not be ready before 2018, and 2025, respectively, thus providing the need for a replacement. Thus, the MRCA tender is more likely to be a medium-weight aircraft (MTOW of ~24 tons). This has led to a renaming of the competition as the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender.

The Indian government is to buy the first 18 aircraft directly from the manufacturer. The remaining fighters will be built under licence with a transfer of technology (ToT) by HAL.

The IAF was keen on buying the Mirage 2000-5, after it was impressed by the Mirage 2000's capabilities during the Kargil War. However, due to the upcoming manufacture of the Dassault Rafale and lack of orders, the Mirage production lines were to be closed down. French officials stated that they could be kept open if India had made a firm commitment. However, the Indian Government decided to go in for a multi-vendor tendering process. Requests for Information (RFI) were issued in 2004. The RFIs were initially sent to four vendors: Dassault (Mirage 2000-5 Mk.2), Lockheed Martin (F-16C/D), Mikoyan (MiG-29OVT), and Saab (JAS 39 Gripen).

Due to the tendering process and delay in issuing the RFIs, Dassault decided to remove the Mirage 2000-5 from the bidding process and enter the Rafale in its place. The MiG-35 was entered in place of the prototype MiG-29OVT. Eurofighter Typhoon also expressed interest in entering the bidding, and have entered their aircraft into the competition. The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet also joined the tendering.

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