As the MMRCA tender for 126 multi-role aircraft for the IAF has hopelessly collapsed in on itself owing to the quagmire surrounding the procurement process, the government is going forward with the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters from Dassault Aviation, France. This has further deepened the mystery and has resulted in the stalemate that we see today.
What about the IAF's requirement of 126 aircraft? Due to the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters, the government is now looking at a new tender for around 110 fighters.
Lockheed Martin had brought forward the F-16IN Super Viper during the initial MMRCA tender. The F-16 is an early 70's design that was spectacular in its day. The version that was offered is a highly modified and upgraded version with features like conformal fuel tanks, APG-80 AESA radar, FADEC engine, an electronic warfare suite, Infra-Red Search and Track (IRST) and a helmet-mounted cueing system. However, in numerical comparison with the Rafale in performance parameters like combat range, payload capacity, external stations etc, the F-16 is severely outdone.
In order to market the aircraft better, Lockheed Martin has come up with a new designation, F-21, for the aircraft. Lockheed Martin claims that the aircraft will be made entirely in India in association with Tata Advanced Systems. Take a look at the launch video below.
The aircraft does look good in Indian colours. However, besides the change in the name, it remains to be seen what changes the aircraft will be given with respect to the F-16IN. For now, it remains as the old wine in a new bottle.