The ongoing tender for the selection of the future Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft for the Indian Air Force is fuelling a fiery competition between the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers. Competitors include, the U.S., European Dassault and Eurofighter, Saab from Sweden and Russian Rosoboronexport representing the MiG corporation.

All contenders are expected here, with some of the competing fighters expected to take part in daily flight displays, promising a breathtaking show for spectators. France is sending two Rafale fighters to India airshow. For the first time.

A pair of Swedish Air Force Gripen fighters arrive at Red Flag – July 2008. Three Gripen fighters are expected to participate at the Aero-India 2011 airshow. Photo: USAF
Dassault is scrambling two Rafals to Bangalore, to meet the competition nose-to-nose on the tarmac at Yelahanka. Photo: U.S. Navy
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Rafale is a strong contender for the MMRCA and Dassault is bound to do its best to strengthen its position. Arriving at Bangalore, the Rafales will meet their direct competitors – Eurofighter is flying two Italian Air Force Typhoons to attract the Indian eyes at this critical time. Sweden is sending three Gripen fighters while the U.S. will fly a F-16 and Russia is sending to MiG-35 –launched on its international debut in 2007.

The Russian MiG-35 is expected again at Aero-India 2011, four years after its international debut here in 2007. However, this year it will not participate in the flight display. Photo: MiG Corporation.
Saab is offering the winner of the ‘Gripen Topgun Challenge’ a chance to fly the real Gripen. Photo: USAF

Of all MMRCA contenders, Gripen was the most creative in generating pre-show buzz. The company has launched a special website ooffering Indian nationals to take the ‘Gripen Topguns Challenge’. According to Edvard de la Motte, campaign director, Gripen International India, the challenge filters the amateur beginners through a series of short quizzes. Those passing this level proceed to a higher tier, reserved for ‘professional grade’ players, required to test their skills in a Gripen flight simulator played on Microsoft flight simulator on PC, XBOX or PSP. The top five rated on the video game will proceed to ‘graduate’ on a real Gripen flight simulator at the airshow, only one ‘pilot’, the best of the best, will get to fly in a two-seat JAS 39 Gripen.

In contrast to selecting an unknown computer wiz, Lockheed Martin is betting on gaining mass media attention through the traditional ‘Celebrity Ride’ on its F-16. Past F-16 rides at Aero-India hosted Tata Industrial Group Chairman Ratan Tata in 2007, and Delhi-based journalist Abhinav Bindra, becoming the first Indian woman to fly the F-16 in 2009. Boeing is also likely to display the F/A-18E/F, – as the second U.S. contender for MMRCA.

Lockheed Marting is expected surprise again with ‘celebrity flight’ on its F-16. Photo: IAF
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