After the procurement of the French-origin Dassault Rafale fighter jets, India is now looking to further bolster its Air Force under the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) 2.0 contract.
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Boeing is aggressively pitching key allies Israel and India and even the United States the most advanced variants of F-15s. Prat Kumar, Boeing’s Vice President had recently stated that the company was in the process of responding to a request for information from Israel for up to 25 new Advanced F-15s, plus upgrades for 25 existing F-15I aircraft.
Earlier, the US Air Force had placed an order for its first batch of F-15EXs, awarding Boeing a contract that puts a ceiling value for the entire program close to $23 billion.
The first delivery order, which has a not-to-exceed value of about $1.2 billion, covers the first lot of eight F-15EX fighter jets, as well as support and one-time, upfront engineering costs.
“The F-15EX is the most affordable and immediate way to refresh the capacity and update the capabilities provided by our aging F-15C/D fleets,” Gen. Mike Holmes, Air Combat Command commander, said in a statement. “The F-15EX is ready to fight as soon as it comes off the line.”
One of the options under the MMRCA 2.0 is the American F-15EX. The fighter can perform in all weathers and offers immense stealth in comparison to the Dassault Rafale fighters that offer moderate stealth capabilities.
The twin-engine F-15EX uses the frame of the classic F-15 and has a combat range of 1,100 miles. Due to its size, the F-15EX fulfils a variety of roles like air superiority, interceptor, deep penetration strikes against enemy infrastructure, strategic bombing, and ground attack.
With Pakistan and China threatening the border, a fighter that offers heavy weapon systems that will be suitable and F-15EX can carry twenty-two air-to-air missiles and other heavy weapons, including ASAT, JASSM-ER, GBU-28 Bunker Buster laser-guided bomb, hypersonic cruise missiles, and AGM-84H SLAM ER, which are far more than an F-35’s payload capacity.
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Boeing is also expecting the F-15EX to carry the new Lockheed Martin infrared search and track sensor (IRST) system. “It offers the pilot an important additional way to detect and track other aircraft at significant ranges,” explained The Drive.
Citing Prat Kumar, Boeing’s Vice President and Program Manager for the F-15, the report also stated that the F-15EX could also be fitted with the LANTIRN navigation pod, Tiger Eyes IRST, and Sniper targeting pod under the intakes. This combination is already adopted by Saudi Arabia, Korea, and Qatar for its advanced F-15s, it further noted.
However, it is important to note that Rafale fighters had already once beaten the Typhoon, Super Hornet and F-16 in 2012 during the MMRC. Reportedly the American jets were rejected because the IAF evaluation criteria emphasized hot-rod flight performance characteristics over avionics.
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The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine, canard-delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft equipped with a wide range of weapons, the Rafale is intended to perform air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence missions.
The Retired Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa has dubbed the Rafale fighter jets as the “game-changer” for the IAF and said that the Indian Rafale deal was a “good package”.
Sebastien Roblin of Forbes also pointed out that the IAF has never operated American jet fighters before. “Currently the Indian Air Force flies Russian Su-30s, MiG-21s and MiG-29s and French Jaguars, Mirage 2000s and Rafales, in addition to its growing fleet of domestic Tejas jet fighters.”
“The Indian Navy also operates MiG-29K carrier-based fighters and the IAF recently purchased 12 more Su-30s and 21 MiG-29s to shore up its flagging numbers,” he added.
While the Indian Security Forces are heavily dependent upon Russian armaments, the increasing support from Washington against Chinese intrusions could skew towards the American fighters in the future.