Pakistan Sales, Export Restrictions Hurt F-16IN Chances in India’s MRCA Deal
Guest Article by Srirangan S.
India’s M-MRCA competition is currently the largest and most lucrative fighter competition in the world. I believe Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN Block 60+ “Super Viper” offering will have a difficult time making past the shortlist of six. Other contenders vying for the USD 11 billion deal include Boeing F/A 18 Super Hornet, MiG-35, SAAB Gripen NG, Eurofighter Typhoon and the Dassault Rafale.
One major factor working specifically against the Lockheed Martin F-16’s is that it has been in operation in the Pakistan Air Force for decades. It is clearly an older, single engined platform compared to its competitors and just does not impress the Indian Air Force regardless of the media blitz launched by the Director of Advance Development Programme Mr. Michael R Griswold in New Delhi last week…
“First, the Indian Air Force has refused to comment officially on specific progress in the MMRCA competition, but an IAF officer familiar with developments at Air Force HQ has indicated to a select group of journalists, on condition of anonymity, that the Indian Air Force and Ministry of Defence specifically agree that there is no sense in purchasing a platform that the US is already supplying to Pakistan (notwithstanding the assertion that the variant on offer to India is far more advanced). This, especially when the F-16 has come to symbolize the irritation India nurses against the stubborn rhetoric South Block faces from the US when it registers its disquiet at billions of dollars worth of conventional weapons being supplied hand over fist to Pakistan supposedly for the war against terror.”
— Shiv Aroor on LiveFist
Cold-war era co-operation with Pakistan cannot be undone, but United States Government policy must not shackle competitiveness of American defense companies in India. There is enough concern in India about the ever growing conventional military aid given by successive U.S. Presidents to Pakistan — worth approximately USD 15 billion — since 9/11. Most of this aid, as expected, has been hijacked by the Pakistani military, and used to build up military capability against India.
That the United States expects India to purchase American weapons while the same are being gifted to the Pakistanis is not being overlooked in New Delhi.
The second factor that works against all American defense companies pitching for various defense deals in India are the controversial and binding agreements that the United States is pushing along with these arms sales. India Defence has previously reported on these agreements and has provided excerpts and citations, as had Defense Industry Daily. The mainstream media too has picked up on these and has covered it aggressively during President Obama’s November 2010 New Delhi visit, which otherwise is being seen as a huge success.
This is an unusual occurrence for a country like India. India has close and non-conflicting strategic-defense relations with major countries including Russia, Israel, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Italy etc. and has not encountered such restrictions elsewhere.
After its liberalization in the early 1990s, defense procurement in India has become an increasingly open, transparent and fair process. Multiple candidates vying for each tender is often the case. Simply put, it is overwhelmingly a buyers market. American defense companies will do well to impress upon the U.S. Government to recognize the environment in India and withdraw Government-imposed clauses that hurt the competency of U.S. defense products and companies.
The success of President Obama’s visit and the deepening ties seen through the Clinton and Bush Jr. Presidencies, have already produced significant deals. On the other hand, India has learnt well from the cold-war era, and is unlikely to put all its eggs in one basket. Regardless of the F-16’s success or failure in M-MRCA, the United States has the potential to strongly compete with Russia and Israel, and become a close defense partner to India.
Srirangan S. is is a New Delhi based defense sector analyst, and is the founder of India Defence.
- Lockheed Martin – F-16IN Super Viper
- DID – India’s M-MRCA Fighter Competition
- India Defence (Nov 9/10) – U.S. Defense Deals Bring Binding Clauses Unacceptable to India
- DID – An EUM Bellwether? India/US Arms Deals Face Crunch Over Conditions
- DID – $5.1B Proposed in Sales, Upgrades, Weapons for Pakistan’s F-16s
- Livefist (Nov 8/10) – MMRCA BUZZ: F-16 Out Of Reckoning? [UPDATED]. Includes a response from Lockheed Martin.
- India Defence (Nov 4/10) – Lockheed Martin Makes Strong Pitch for F-16s for $11 billion Air Force MRCA Deal