Saab’s Gripen E is Leading IAF’s latest MMRCA Contest for 110 Fighter Jets

The Ministry of Defence, Government of India, intends to procure Fighter Aircraft
for the Indian Air Force (IAF) which is to be “Made in India”. The proposal is to procure
approximately 110 fighter aircraft (about 75% single seat and rest twin-seat aircraft).

Saab Gripen E with various munitions (Source Saab Group)

Under the procurement plan, 15% aircraft will be sold to flyaway condition and the
remaining 85% aircraft will have to be made in India by the manufacturer with a strategic partner from India.

The Indian Air Force defined the operational role of the fighter jet to be Air Superiority,  Air Defence,  Air to Surface Operations, Reconnaissance, Maritime,  EW missions and Buddy Refuelling etc. IAF specified that the proposed fighter jet could carry weapons of Indian origin and foreign origin. Vendors are requested to define aspect and relevant radar frequency bands for calculation of Radar Cross Section (RCS) of the aircraft when aircraft configured with A2A and A2G weapons. The RCS is another factor that may put western aircraft ahead of Russian aircraft.

The most intriguing fact that the IAF specified refuelling capability of NATO standard and Gallium Nitride (GaN) based technology used in AESA radar which is available only in European and American fighter jet indicate that the IAF does not indent or interested in Russia’s fighter jet in the recent RFI.

The Radar tracking mode also specified beyond + 60° azimuth and 120km range which is covered by Wide Field of Regard of Raven AESA radar. None of the Russian radar has Wide Field of Regard.

The Radar specification includes Real Beam Mapping (RBM), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Ground Moving Target Indication (GMTI) over RBM/SAR, Ground Moving Target Track (GMTT) over RBM/SAR, Ground Target (Stationary) Track,  Air to Ground Ranging, Weather, Sea Surveillance and Search While Track, Sea Target Continuous Track (STCT), Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) and Terrain Avoidance.

The specification of radar, electronics and refuelling prob will prohibit any Russian fighter jets inclusive Su-35 to compete in Indian MMRCA as Russian fighter jets lack advanced GaN-based radar.

The MiG-35 has been advertised as a fighter jet with an AESA radar. However, the recent delivery of Egyptian Air Force (EAF) does not contain an AESA radar because the radar supposed to be exported to Egyptian Air Force allegedly is not production ready.

Raven ES.jpg
Raven ES-05 GaN-based AESA radar (Source Leonardo Company)

The requirements stipulating the use of GaN-based TRMs in the aircraft’s AESA radar seems to be a significant discerning factor. The Saab JAS 39 Gripen E seems to be leading the IAF’s latest fighter contest for now.

Relevant Article

Saab’s Gripen E – The Smart Fighter Jet

Russia’s Su-57 is a Su-35 beneath a new airframe

India withdraws from FGFA or Su-57 (PAK FA) project

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