DESPITE the current travails, it appears that the MRCA programme is inching towards the final stage. And the aircraft shortlisted has been cut to two. Unsurprisingly, the two are the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale.
Industry and ministry officials said although Boeing and Saab are aware of the latest developments they are still plugging away their planes as no contract have been signed yet. That said however if the funding magically appears tomorrow, it will be either the Typhoon or Rafale that will be chosen.
The decision on the MRCA could be made soon, I am told though funding remained the biggest issue on the table. As both UK and France offers funding options under a government-to-government deal the tricky issue could be resolved.
If we go for the proposed funding options, the payment period for the aircraft may well spread out for at least 10 years based on statements made by the Defence Minister in the past. I am no finance expert but I think it could go up to 20 years. Which also mean that we will only get 18 jets only and not more.
As which one is the more likely candidate for the MRCA programme, my guess is as good as yours. Both aircraft have their own merits so at the end of the day the political considerations will tip the scale.
What about the proposals about buying Hornets from Kuwait then? That is only a proposal made in this website, it was never AFAIK considered by the government.
Furthermore, how will the MRCA programme affect other projects of the Armed Forces? Little or no impact actually as the major programmes – the AV8, A400M and LCS – are already accounted for. It is this army/air force centric funding that leaves the navy scrambling to find funds for its own recapitalisation plans. That resulted in the proposed 15 to 5 plan.