left in the Indian MMRCA evaluation. Who will win? Who knows, but in the battle-proven aspect, Rafale is clearly in the lead with one tour of duty in Afghanistan and now doing all kind of missions in Libya. The Eurofighter has dropped a few bombs in Libya, but RAF mostly let the Tornado do the mud-moving and leave the Eurofighter to do the top-cover. The Eurofighter is not yet fully ready for air-to-ground missions.
The first part of the MMRCA evaluation was about fulfilling the Indian Air Force technical requirements. To get the best aircraft possible. The second part of the evaluation is about economy and industrial cooperation.
Technically the Rafale may be in lead, but what about the cooperation between French and Indian industries?
France has sold a number of aircraft to India over the years.
Besides the Russian aircraft (Su-30 MKI, Mig-29 and Mig-21), the main fighter aircraft in the Indian Air Force is the 51 x Mirage 2000H, which will now be updated to Mirage 2000-5 standard.
India has approved a $2.4-billion proposal from French defence groups to upgrade its fleet of 51 ageing Mirage fighter jets, a military source said on Thursday.
"The defence secretary has agreed to the proposal put forward by French defence majors Dassault and Thales and (European group) MBDA for the Mirage-2000 retrofit," the source in the Indian Air Force (IAF) told AFP.
The upgrade is expected to include advanced navigation systems, mission computers, electronic warfare systems and radars.
The deal was signed in 2010, but put on hold since France also made some business with Pakistan and were almost on the way to sign a contract to deliver avionics to PAF JF-17. France however decided that the Indian contract, including the chance of selling Rafale, was worth more than the deal with Pakistan.
Note: One very interesting aspect of the Pakistan deal was that the Rafale was out of the MMRCA evaluation for a while, but when France started cooperating with Pakistan they were back in again...
Russia may be the main partner in the Su-30 MKI deal, but there are a number of companies delivering western avionics to the aircraft, many of them French.
- SAGEM Sigma-95 integrated global positioning system and ring laser gyroscope inertial navigation system.
- Thales Topsight-I Helmet Mounted Sight is used in Indian Mig-29. A modified version will be integrated in Su-30 MKI by Indian manufacturer SAMTEL and HAL. Thales did also deliver the displays in the SU-30 MKI, but now they are delivered by SAMTEL in cooperation with Thales.
France do have some ongoing business with India. We will soon know if this will be enough to win phase two of the evaluation.
The Rafale has one other big advantage over the Eurofighter and that is the Rafale-M naval version which could come as a bonus for the Indian navys new carriers. This is however a requirement that is not included in the original specification used during phase one. But both Eurofighter and Gripen are looking into developing a naval version of their aircraft.
This review of the Rafale by a British pilot is worth reading.