In single combat a Rafale can beat the Tejas, but a Tejas swarm can down a bunch of Rafales any day; meaning quantity will prevail when the qualitative difference is marginal.(AFP Photo)
In single combat a Rafale can beat the Tejas, but a Tejas swarm can down a bunch of Rafales any day; meaning quantity will prevail when the qualitative difference is marginal.(AFP Photo)

India rescuing western defence firms, not developing domestic ones

The Rafale deal shows that India is rescuing western defence firms rather than developing domestic manufacturing.
By Bharat Karnad | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON OCT 18, 2015 11:30 PM IST

The impression created by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meetings with western leaders is that India will buy any de-rated military goods offered. His announcement about purchasing 36 1980s-vintage French Rafale planes to meet the Indian Air Force’s requirement for ‘medium multi-role combat aircraft’ (MMRCA) wrong-footed defence minister Manohar Parrikar, who favoured the bigger, more versatile and economical Su-30 — superior to the Rafale in all roles, including nuclear delivery.

In the US, accords for more C-17 transport aircraft and helicopters — all, incidentally, stripped of sophisticated sensors and communications gear were signed. The HDW 214 diesel-electric submarine selection for the navy’s Project 75i featured in the talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel — except that the ‘214’ is an ‘export’ variant of the advanced ‘212’ and, hence, without features like the non-magnetic hull to render detection by magnetic anomaly detectors difficult.

Such defence transactions supposedly promote Modi’s ‘Make in India’ scheme. Not clear how, considering they resemble the old policy of licence-manufacture. Absent the hard decision to end arms dependency by marshalling resources nationally, scrapping the “L1”— lowest tender — system and similar impedimenta, and permitting the private sector to utilise the defence public sector facilities, New Delhi will continue to rescue slumping western defence industries, while preventing indigenous design-to-delivery capabilities from getting off the ground.

Rafale is also part of the anti-Russian tilt — justified in terms of the spares shortages endemic to its supply chain. Except, the 30-40% down-time of Su-30s and MiG-29s, for instance, is comparable to that of the Mirage 2000s, Jaguars, and Hawks in Indian employ. In any case, the problem with the spares is more easily mitigated than prospective grounding during crises of whole fleets should European suppliers, succumbing to US pressure, cut off the spares flow, as happened in the past.

India’s aim to win friends by promising big armament buys may win goodwill. But it lasts only until the next big defence deal is lost by a vendor state, when the squeeze is put with threats of arms transfers to Pakistan, as Russia is doing with the proposed sale of attack helicopters and MiG-35 combat planes to Islamabad.

Among the deals none is more outrageous as regards cost and disutility than the Rafale deal. The reported negotiated price of $9 billion for 36 Rafales and another $6 billion for mid-life upgrade — for a total of $15 billion — is being used by the IAF as a wedge to compel buys of 44 more Rafales. This amounts to $250 million per aircraft, roughly the price-tag of the US 5th generation F-35 fighter-bomber. Using Parrikar’s metric of three Su-30s for the price of one Rafale, the $9 billion will fetch IAF 108 Su-30s or almost seven squadrons (instead of two Rafale squadrons). Further, because this plane is produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., it will spur local production and provide a fillip to ‘Make in India’.

Then there’s an aspect relating to the life-time programme costing that has escaped attention. It involves a system of complex calculations the IAF and defence ministry ostensibly used to make the MMRCA decision. By this reckoning the cost calculus actually gets more skewed against the Rafale. The $15 billion up-front acquisition cost constitutes only 30% of the lifetime costs. Maintenance and servicing will account for the remaining 70% of programme expenditures.

It explains the fierce competition to sell fighter jets because a country once hooked keeps paying multiples of the procurement prices. In the event, the realistic bill for just two Rafale squadrons is $27 billion with upgrade (at current value) without technology transfer. Is Parrikar aware of this, and the government prepared for a humongous outlay on meagre fighting assets?

IAF’s import orientation can be fixed by giving it the charge of, and making it responsible for, the indigenous Tejas programme — deliberately belittled by its brass. This, combined with the jettisoned import option, can produce startling results. Recall that import denial led to India getting world-class Agni missiles.

Consider a Rafale-less force-structure: 108 additional Su-30s — rated the best combat aircraft in the world which could, by 2020, augment the 14 squadrons of this plane already in service, along with squadrons of the upgraded Mirage 2000, MiG-29, and Jaguar. For short-and medium-range air defence, the bulk aircraft is obviously the home-made Tejas Mk-1A and Tejas Mk-II.

Equipped with an Active Electronically Scanned Array radar they will, like Rafale, be 4.5 generation, but more agile and cheaper to buy and upkeep, and seed a sustainable Indian aerospace industry. In a single combat a Rafale can beat the Tejas, but a Tejas swarm can down a bunch of Rafales anytime; meaning quantity will prevail when the qualitative difference is marginal.

Moreover, with air warfare transitioning into an era of multi-purpose drones — something the “fighter jock”-driven IAF seems unprepared for — the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft project with Russia becomes redundant. The savings of Rs 50,000 crore can, with China in mind, be invested in leasing extra Akula nuclear-powered attack submarines and the new Tu-160M2 strategic bomber India needs but the IAF, incomprehensibly, is allergic to, or in developing and fielding advanced drones, more nuclear-powered submarines, and multiple-nuclear warheaded long-range Agni missiles.

Bharat Karnad is with the Centre for Policy Research and author of Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet). The views expressed are personal.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Elections in Kerala are punctuated by several controversies, both past and present (File Photo)
Elections in Kerala are punctuated by several controversies, both past and present (File Photo)

Espionage to smuggling, scandals spice up every poll in Kerala

By Ramesh Babu, Thiruvanathapuram
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 07:26 PM IST
  • controversies and scandals were part of the state polity in the last three decades and mushrooming digital media also played its part in amplifying them, said a political observer.
Close
The 1962 baggage at the turn of century was such that for 40 years, subsequent governments did not dare build border roads on the ground that these could be used by the Chinese army to enter the hinterland in case of a conflict.(PTI)
The 1962 baggage at the turn of century was such that for 40 years, subsequent governments did not dare build border roads on the ground that these could be used by the Chinese army to enter the hinterland in case of a conflict.(PTI)

Why 2021 political rhetoric is no match for 1962 fighting in Ladakh

By Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 02:15 PM IST
  • India and China came close to war last year after Indian army commanders atop Rezang La-Rechin La ridge threatened to fire at the advancing PLA tank regiment that sought to dislodge the Indian troopers.
Close
Approximately half of the countries use population for delimitation, while another third use registered voters. Nowhere is it based on area and for good reasons (HTPHOTO)
Approximately half of the countries use population for delimitation, while another third use registered voters. Nowhere is it based on area and for good reasons (HTPHOTO)

J&K delimitation: Go by the population rule

By Haseeb Drabu
PUBLISHED ON MAR 01, 2021 06:39 PM IST
Having already decided on the number of electors as well as the number of elected, the only part of delimitation that has been left to the Commission is the electoral cartography — the redrawing of boundaries and enclosing people within the constituency framework. Notwithstanding these debilitating infirmities in the context of J&K, the redrawing of the constituencies is an extraordinarily complex and highly contentious exercise. It can potentially alter the electoral demographic balance.
Close
Representational image. (AFP)
Representational image. (AFP)

Congress needs to worry more about rebels than opponents in Puducherry

By Abhishek Jha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 22, 2021 06:32 PM IST
The only time the Congress has lost Puducherry, it has been because of a rebel. The Congress and DMK together have won over 50% seats in every assembly elections in Puducherry since 1980, except in 2011
Close
At a January meeting to review projects, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed displeasure at the process-driven bureaucracy (ANI)
At a January meeting to review projects, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed displeasure at the process-driven bureaucracy (ANI)

Behind PM Modi’s stinging critique of the IAS, a Jan meeting holds the clue

By Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 17, 2021 09:35 AM IST
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given bureaucrats an earful at a January meeting of the country's top officials and underlined the price that India paid for their slow pace.
Close
PM Narendra Modi was emotional while giving a farewell to Ghulam Nabi Azad from Rajya Sabha.
PM Narendra Modi was emotional while giving a farewell to Ghulam Nabi Azad from Rajya Sabha.

Salute to Ghulam Nabi Azad underlined PM Modi’s personal ties with rivals

By Saubhadra Chatterji | Edited by Abhinav Sahay, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2021 03:37 PM IST
  • Leaders from the Congress and other Opposition parties have many stories to show that the Prime Minister has maintained personal rapport with leaders cutting across political boundaries.
Close
Officials carry out search and rescue operation at Tapovan Tunnel, after a glacier broke off in Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district causing a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river on Sunday. (File photo)
Officials carry out search and rescue operation at Tapovan Tunnel, after a glacier broke off in Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district causing a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river on Sunday. (File photo)

Not just climate change, Chamoli disaster was human-induced

UPDATED ON FEB 08, 2021 12:15 PM IST
Stone quarrying, blasting of mountains and digging of tunnels in the base of the mountain system for two dams on Rishi Ganga and Dhauli Ganga rivers played havoc with the local ecology
Close
In this file photo, a man hangs on to pole holding a Sikh religious flag along with a farm union flag at the historic Red Fort monument during a farmers protest against new farm laws in New Delhi(AP)
In this file photo, a man hangs on to pole holding a Sikh religious flag along with a farm union flag at the historic Red Fort monument during a farmers protest against new farm laws in New Delhi(AP)

Perception is the truth in information warfare over farm laws

By Shishir Gupta, New Delhi, Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON FEB 04, 2021 01:42 PM IST
  • The Chinese were among the first to recognise the role of information warfare to weaken the adversary from within
Close
Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman. (Ajay Aggarwal /HT PHOTO)
Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman. (Ajay Aggarwal /HT PHOTO)

A new confidence about India reflects in a bold Budget 2021

By Monika Halan
UPDATED ON FEB 01, 2021 09:59 PM IST
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has chosen to spend on generating future income using the higher capital spending, which has gone up by 35.4% over the previous year
Close
Shaibal Gupta also made a pioneering contribution in explaining the historical roots and the evolution of Bihar’s politics, which have today become the staple of everyday political analysis. (FACEBOOK)
Shaibal Gupta also made a pioneering contribution in explaining the historical roots and the evolution of Bihar’s politics, which have today become the staple of everyday political analysis. (FACEBOOK)

The life and times of a Patna intellectual

UPDATED ON JAN 31, 2021 06:20 AM IST
Shaibal Gupta was rooted and cosmopolitan; idealistic and pragmatic; and an insider and outsider — all at the same time. Patna’s public life will not the same without him.
Close
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar's address on India-China ties is a reminder to Beijing that the bilateral relationship between the two Asian powers is not a one-way street.(AP/File)
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar's address on India-China ties is a reminder to Beijing that the bilateral relationship between the two Asian powers is not a one-way street.(AP/File)

Jaishankar yellow-cards China for violating pacts, spells out the India way

By Shishir Gupta, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 29, 2021 03:02 PM IST
  • S Jaishankar’s speech on India-China ties signals India’s determination to continue to stand up to Xi Jinping’s expansionist plans for Asia as an equal and makes it clear that nothing that Beijing does against India will be overlooked, or allowed to go unpunished.
Close
Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of China's Alibaba Group, in Chiba, Japan, June 18, 2015 (REUTERS)
Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of China's Alibaba Group, in Chiba, Japan, June 18, 2015 (REUTERS)

Jack Ma story: China’s deep strategic ambition

By Manoj Kewalramani
UPDATED ON JAN 29, 2021 04:50 AM IST
This statist vision of the future is very different from the government creating a level-playing field for private capital to compete and the market to do its job. It is about the State guiding capital and private entities towards what it believes are national strategic priorities, rather than allowing them to simply focus on generating greater revenue.
Close
A Nihang Sikh aboard a horse inside Red Fort on Tuesday.(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
A Nihang Sikh aboard a horse inside Red Fort on Tuesday.(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

Republic Day raid was pre-meditated, planned well in advance

UPDATED ON JAN 28, 2021 02:17 PM IST
With Delhi Police under firm orders not to open fire, the armed Nihang Sikhs provided the cover for the tractors to roll towards Red Fort.
Close
A video of an unruly tractor moving waywardly towards police personnel at ITO emerged on Tuesday as farmers protesting against farm laws deviated from their route and moved inside the Capital.
A video of an unruly tractor moving waywardly towards police personnel at ITO emerged on Tuesday as farmers protesting against farm laws deviated from their route and moved inside the Capital.

How unruly farmers tried to embarrass India on Republic Day

UPDATED ON JAN 27, 2021 02:09 PM IST
The tractor-borne unruly farmers were minutes away from India Gate when they were blocked by New Delhi Range police.
Close
How do we address this cyclical pattern of hailing and rubbishing financiers? It is time for an honest review of the entire issue (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
How do we address this cyclical pattern of hailing and rubbishing financiers? It is time for an honest review of the entire issue (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The policy landscape around digital and physical micro-lending

By Amol Agrawal
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2021 06:08 AM IST
In 1870s, a similar backlash emerged in Poona and Ahmednagar districts of the Bombay presidency. The agriculture boom in the early 1860s led farmers to take loans from moneylenders
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP