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The invitation to India to participate in the upgradation of the Eurofighter Typhoon is a matter of satisfaction: It’s a signal of the country’s aeronautical expertise. If India goes ahead, it will be the fifth country and the first outside Europe to join the project. The invitation was extended by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), part-owner of the manufacturer of the Typhoon, Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH.

The Eurofighter is one of the latest generation of aircraft that incorporates some elements of stealth technology and advanced radar.

As with other defence projects, careful evaluation is necessary. If India selects the Eurofighter under the multi-role combat aircraft contract, participation in the upgradation of the aircraft will stand it in good stead. Knowledge about the weapon platform, one that comes from design, manufacturing and other similar processes gives an edge when compared with mere operation of equipment. In this case, the most advanced version of the aircraft, tranche 3, is scheduled to go into production around 2012. This is the version that India is likely to be interested in.

At the same time, one cannot help view the invitation as a “sweetner". EADS has said that it’s ready to include India in its supersonic jet trainer programme and other futuristic projects such as unmanned aerial and undersea vehicles. But at the moment, the question is about the country’s requirement for fighter planes. This is also a transition time for the Indian Air Force (IAF). It’s in a “between" stage: It’s barely managed to go beyond MiG-21 to the fourth-generation Mig-29 and Su-30 aircraft. It needs a fourth-and-half generation fighter for some years. This is the time before the fifth generation Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA) takes off. That would be roughly around 2012, though delays cannot be ruled out.

It is because of this requirement that the Eurofighter enters the scene. It’s a fourth-and-half generation plane that may serve the IAF well. When one views the other fighter aircraft competing for the 126-plane contract, the plane is competitive. Hence, the offer by EADS officials may be a calculated one: It may benefit India, but we should evaluate the offer carefully.

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