3 minute readHow did a non-compliant MMRCA bid become L1?

Former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne with the Commander of the Rafale Squadron (Squadron Leader) Kubiak Thierry, General Jean-Paul Paloméros, Chief of Staff of the French Air Force and Col Jean-Pierre Moontegu, Base Commander St. Dizier Airbase, after a one hour sortie in a Rafale during a visit to France in May 2012 | Photo: IAF

Former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne with the Commander of the Rafale Squadron (Squadron Leader) Kubiak Thierry, General Jean-Paul Paloméros, Chief of Staff of the French Air Force and Col Jean-Pierre Moontegu, Base Commander St. Dizier Airbase, after a one hour sortie in a Rafale during a visit to France in May 2012 | Photo: IAF

Coming to the Rafale, you all know that the initial proposal of the MMRCA could not go through because of various issues that cropped up in terms of compliance of the RFP.

Since there was no headway being made in terms of compliance of the RFP in this contract, so the government, I think, decided based on the critical requirement of the air force, to buy government-to-government agreement – 36 Rafales – the process is already on, negotiations have progressed very well and I think the contract should be there very soon. – Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, Chief of Air Staff, Indian Air Force

The Indian Air Force (IAF) had its hopes for maintaining its fighter capability riding on three acquisition programs.

The indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) program, the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) program and the tender to acquire 126 Medium Multi role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA).

The IAF has decided to order 120 LCA, notwithstanding the problems with the aircraft. Perhaps the same will ultimately happen with the FGFA, from which expectations have been shrinking this past year.

It was the MMRCA from which the IAF had the greatest hopes – and there is enough blame to go around for the failure of the tender.

It is true that former Defense Minister AK Antony could have supervised the program more closely and the defense ministry could have been more forthright about the terms of the tender or Request For Proposal (RFP) being veritable redlines which would have to be followed by the winning vendor, without exception.

The vendor, Dassault, could have been more accommodating of the terms of the RFP for a tender, which they were obliged to follow when they signed up to compete, or at least, make their reservations clear in their bid, on the basis of which they became L1. The defense ministry could have taken steps, but they did not.

But most importantly, it was the IAF insistence that it was this aircraft they wanted and no other that prevented Antony’s defense ministry from declaring Dassault’s bid as evidently not compliant.

One air chief, Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik, termed the trial process one that should be ‘patented’. Here’s what another air chief, Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne said in 2013:

There is no back-up plan. The MMRCA is the only option, and it is highly doable.

No back-up plan. Let’s allow that to sink in, coming from the head of an armed force of the Union. How an air chief can admit to not having a contingency plan, far less insist on it publicly, might come across as strange.

‘Highly doable’. Except for the L1 favorite bid that turned out to be non-compliant.

At a time when force numbers are showing a worrying decline and viable alternative acquisition options like the LCA and the FGFA seem to be falling short of requirements, why did successive air chiefs advocate a there-is-no-alternative approach to a non-compliant MMRCA bid? And subsequently, is it correct to reward the non-compliant bid that derailed the MMRCA tender with an order for 36 aircraft?

  1 comment for “3 minute readHow did a non-compliant MMRCA bid become L1?

So what do you think?