India inked an inter-governmental pact with France to buy 36 Rafale fighter planes on Monday but the two sides could take several weeks to hammer out the multi-billion euro deal.
In April last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced in Paris that India would buy the French fighter jets under a government-to-government deal, scrapping the original plan to buy 126 Rafales after commercial negotiations with plane-maker Dassault Aviation collapsed.
What is Rafale?
France launched the Rafale programme as it wanted to deploy an omnirole fighter to replace seven different types of combat aircraft operated by it. The twin-engine warplane is capable of carrying out a variety of missions - ground and sea attack, air defence and air superiority, reconnaissance and nuclear strike deterrence.
India will be the third country to buy the Rafale after Egypt and Qatar. The plane has seen combat in Afghanistan, Libya and Mali.
The Indian Air Force had projected a requirement for medium, multi-role combat aircraft way back in 2001 to replace ageing Soviet-era fighter jets in its fleet. India floated a global tender in August 2007 to buy 126 modern combat planes to boost the IAF’s offensive capabilities.
Dassault Aviation, which manufactures the Rafale fighters, beat off competition from five international rivals and emerged as the frontrunner for the contract in January 2012. However, the tender stood cancelled when Modi announced India would buy 36 Rafales under a g-to-g deal.
India requires 45 fighter squadrons to counter a combined threat from China and Pakistan, but it has only 34 squadrons with about 18 planes each. Also, 14 of these squadrons are equipped with vintage MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighter planes.
India desperately needs to upgrade its ageing Soviet-era fleet plagued by engine troubles and poor availability.
What are the hurdles?
Details such as pricing and after-sales support need to be sorted out before the contract can be signed. Dassault Aviation has said the deal could be clinched in around four weeks.
France has indicated a maximum price of around €11.6 billion for the warplanes with full armament complement. India is negotiating to bring the price down to around €8 billion.
Wing span: 10.90 m
Length: 15.30 m
Height: 5.30 m
Overall empty weight: 10 tons
Max take-off weight: 24.5 tons
External load: 9.5 tons
Service ceiling: 50,000 ft