Indian air force is likely to sign the contract with the winner of the MMRCA project by the end of next year. MMRCA is a competition launched by the Indian air force to purchase atleast 126 fighter jets with an option for another 64 - 74.

Indian air force is looking to replace the aging fleet of Mig fighter jets which are crashing at an alarming rate. More than 330 Mig-21 fighter jets have been lost from the total of 793 since 1963. Indian air force lost about 23 aircrafts each year from 1972 to 2004.

Indian air force planed to replace these old age fighter jets with locally developed LCA fighter jets in 1990s but due to the continued delays in the program IAF has decided to induct a fighter jet which will be purchased from aboard.

United States of America is offering F-16 E/F IN Block 70 which if accepted by the Indian air force will be the most advance version of the F-16. F-16 E/F Block 70 is a customized version of the F-16E/F Block 60 for the Indian air force. Indian F-16 E/F Block 70 will carry the AN/APG-80 AESA radar which offers much improved range over the AN/APG-68(V) 9 radar used in PAF’s F-16 C/D block 52+ aircrafts.

USA is also pushing forward their latest twin engine naval fighter F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet. United States Navy has ordered over 400 of F/A-18E/F Super Hornet which are operational over its super aircraft carriers.

Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has also purchased 24 such aircrafts as interm replacement for their F-111 aircrafts. Super Hornet uses the AN/APG-79 AESA. Super Hornet uses the F414 engine which has also been selected for the LCA MK-II fighter aircraft.

Both F-16 E/F IN Block 70 and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet are the most advance fourth generation fighter jets from the USA. Of all the contenders in the MMRCA tender only F-16 IN Block 70 and F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet offer the operational AESA radar capability.

European consortium is offering its most advance aircraft Eurofighter Typhoon. Eurofighter has already been sold to the Austria and Saudi Arabia. Austria has placed an order for 18 such aircrafts but it was later on reduced to 15 and Royal Saudi Air Force has initially ordered 72 such aircrafts.

While the aircraft is believed to be leading in the competition, it still suffers from limited air to ground capability compared to its competitors and the lack of integration of AESA radar.

France is offering its newest twin-engine fighter aircraft Rafale. IAF already uses the Mirage-2000 fighter aircrafts developed and produced by the same company. IAF has recently signed a contract worth $2.94 billion with the Thales and Dassault to upgrade its 51 Mirage-2000 fighter aircrafts. French air force and Navy have ordered 180 Rafale fighter aircrafts.

While many countries have shown interest in the aircraft, it has so far failed to achieve an export order. Rafale fighter aircraft is the front runner in the competition for the Brazilian Air Force and UAE-AF. New RBE2 AESA radar will be operational by the end of 2012 to replace the current PESA RBE2.

Sweden is offering to sell the Gripen JAS-39 IN based on the Gripen NG (Next Generation). Gripen NG uses the F414 engine developed by the General Electric. This is the same engine which is selected for the LCA MK-II fighter aircraft.

Gripen NG has increased fuel and payload capacity. Its combat radius will be 1300 kilometers when armed with six air to air missiles+ external fuel tanks. It is planned to carry the Raven ES-05 AESA radar which is still under development. Gripen also have ability to super cruise at speed of Mach 1.2 without using the fuel guzzler afterburners.

Russians are offering to sell their latest version of the Mig fighter aircraft called MiG-35. It is based on the MiG-29K/KUB which is already in limited service with the Indian Navy. Russian feel that they have some advantage over their competitors as both Indian air force and Indian navy operate the Mig-29 aircrafts.

MiG-35 fighter aircraft will use the Zhuk-AE AESA radar. Indian Air Force has also signed contract worth US$888 million with Russia to upgrade its fleet of 63 MiG-29 fighters by 2013.

Indian air force plans to sign the contract for the MMRCA by the middle of next year. It will take about take about years takes three years for the deliveries to start. Winner of the contract will provide first 18 aircrafts from its own manufacturing facilities while remaining 108 will be produced in India under license.

Contract for the MMRCA is likely to face some setbacks due to uncertainties about the offset policies of the GoI and there are still few issues which need to be resolved as Indians are demanding a deep transfer of technology. India has already asked the competitors in MMRCA contract to Vendors revise their bids.

IAF has already placed orders for 280 SU-30MKI fighter jets from Russia many of which are being produced in India under license. Indian air force is also investing in the Russian fifth generation aircraft PAK FA. India is looking to purchase 200-250 of such fighter aircrafts.

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