Bangladesh set to acquire multirole combat aircraft
No matter what happens after much drama, tension, and delay -- it is assured that one of the finest multirole combat aircraft in the world; either the Eurofighter Typhoon or Dassault Rafale is arriving to defend the skies of Bangladesh.
When Bangladesh signed with Irkut Corporation in late 2013 for sixteen Yak-130, a subsonic two-seat advanced jet trainer and light combat aircraft that was financed through a one-billion-dollar credit arranged by the Kremlin on the basis of sovereign guarantees; pragmatically it was obvious for Bangladesh Air Force to settle with SU-30 for the next purchase. It was a tradition for BAF to buy prime combat aircraft from Russia and light ones from China.
But Dhaka was not entirely satisfied with Moscow, when the latter attached a condition on the Bangladesh Air Force that it had to purchase the Mig-35 along with SU-30. Things further deteriorated when Russia overtly supported Myanmar on the Rohingya issue from the beginning. Russia also agreed to sell both Yak-130 and SU-30 to Myanmar, thereby upsetting the regional airpower balance.
During that time in 2015, BDMilitary.com that later re-branded as The Bangladesh Defence Analyst (defseca.com), the country’s military and security based web portal from 2005 which is run by defence experts, first suggested the idea to purchase Eurofighter Typhoon for the Bangladesh Air Force and analyzed the prospects of it to achieve pure air deterrence considering both of our neighboring countries and consequential aspects.
The idea was spotted by then the Chief of Bangladesh Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Abu Esrar. While attending Farnborough International Air Show in July, 2016, he himself took the chance to inspect the Eurofighter Typhoon thoroughly with senior experts from BAF.
Back home, the man who is well-known for his prompt decision making and leadership did his best to convince the government about the aircraft. It was not easy for him since the Eurofighter Typhoon is expensive and, being a strategic weapon, there are myriad factors to calculate before going for such a purchase. Moreover, Eurofighter Typhoon is a product of a conglomeration of the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and Germany, which makes it a diplomatically complicated exercise, but one that can pay dividends as Bangladesh enjoys relatively good relations with all aforementioned countries.
Also Read - Bangladesh purchases air defence radar systems
The fantastic job done by Esrar’s office made room for western origin multirole combat aircraft for the first time in 2017. During the 3rd Bangladesh-United Kingdom strategic dialogue in 2019, UK officially expressed its "readiness" to help Bangladesh Air Force obtain higher calibre multirole combat aircraft from Europe.
In February of the following year, when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid her official visit to Italy, several local Italian newspapers hinted about Bangladesh’s interest in Eurofighter Typhoon, AgustaWestland AW101 and Alenia C-27J Spartan. In 2019 when Chief of Italian Air Force Lieutenant General Alberto Rosso met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her office in Dhaka, HPM requested him to arrange advance training for BAF pilots in Italy, upon which General Rosso expressed his government’s willingness to assist.
Things shaped to newer drama when French Defence Minister Florence Parly came to Dhaka with a direct proposal to take part in our ongoing MRCA program with their Rafale in March of 2020. In 2021, Bangladesh Air Force requested the Bangladesh government to earmark around 25,200-crores taka ($3 billion) for sixteen Western-origin multirole fighter jets. In order to sign the agreement and for the first installment, Bangladesh Air Force has requested for allocation of 6,300-crores taka from the coming 2021-22 financial year.
In 2021, Eurofighter World Magazine also stated Bangladesh as a potential customer for Eurofighter Typhoon. Considering the allocation of funds, it can be assumed that Bangladesh is interested in buying the latest Captor-E AESA radar equipped Tranche 4 or Tranche 3A variant of Eurofighter Typhoon. According to Dirk Hoke, CEO Airbus Defense and Space: "The new Tranche 4 Eurofighter is currently the most modern European-built combat aircraft with a service life well beyond 2060."
Let us wait until the Bangladesh Air Show (BAS) in February 2022 to reveal the name until the winner of the contract is awarded.
Dr Mahmud Rafiq is an Aviation, Computational Fluid Dynamics and Distributed Electric Propulsion Specialist.