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On Multi-Role Fighters, Europe Offers India More Value Than U.S.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

In what was described as a major milestone in the six-nation Multirole Medium Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender, the Indian Ministry of Defense announced the final contenders for the $10 billion, 126-plane purchase in April. Only the Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon were left in the fray, while Boeing's F-18 E/F Superhornet, Lockheed Martin's F-16, Saab's Gripen and UAC's MiG-35 were all eliminated. The selection of aircraft offered only by European manufacturers has been seen by many U.S. commentators as a political snub to the Indo-U.S. strategic partnership, despite the Indian government's great efforts to frame the decision as a purely technical one taken by the Indian air force (IAF). In reality, the Indian decision reflects the fact that, in this particular case, Europe offers a superior value proposition than the United States.

Ever since the start of the MMRCA competition, several American thinks tanks have portrayed a potential U.S. win as the culmination of the Indo-U.S. strategic relationship that began under the Bush administration. Success for U.S. manufacturers was to herald a new era in trust and cooperation between the world's two largest democracies, while simultaneously bringing much-needed jobs to recession-hit America and giving India access to leading U.S. defense technology. ...

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