The race to win the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition is nearing the final stages with the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale making the shortlist to replace the Jaguar and MiG-27s for the Indian Air Force.
The competition is worth more to Dassault or Eurofighter than the estimated 9.32 billion US dollars the Indian Ministry of Defence has assigned. Both Dassault and Eurofighter need an export customer to keep the production line of their fighter jet open and allow them more time to find the next customer. Without an export customer production will have to be slowed down or the line kept open without any work for it (a very expensive option). The reduction of military budgets worldwide has led to production orders for new fighter jets becoming few and far between and this makes this competition vital to the survival of either Typhoon or Rafale.
The contract for the MMRCA would also accelerate development of the winning aircraft, benefiting the current users of the aircraft type and help to win further orders in the future. For Typhoon this would be the AESA radar, thrust vectoring engines and possibly improvements like conformal fuel tanks. The RAF in particular would be very happy to see the AESA radar being developed as it forms an important part of the electronic attack role Typhoon will be taking on when the Tornado GR4 is retired.
The winning manufacturer would also be nicely positioned to bid for a tender from the Indian Navy to replace their ageing Sea Harriers. Eurofighter have already provided them with information about a naval version of the Typhoon and the Rafale M is of course already operating from French aircraft carriers.
A final decision is expected in July 2011.