India’s decision to buy 36 Rafale fighter planes from France in flyway condition through the government-to-government (G2G) route reflects a sense of urgency to buttress the air force’s depleting force levels.
A G2G programme is a contract between two governments and does away with floating a global tender to buy weapons and systems. Such transactions may be complicated in their conception and execution, but are more transparent to financial scrutiny.
The original plan was to buy 18 Rafales in flyaway condition, while the remaining were to be built in India. Rafales saw action during Libyan hostilities. The Rafale programme was launched after French Air Force and French Navy decided they wanted to deploy an omnirole fighter to replace seven different types of combat aircraft.
India has taken the FMS route to buy equipment worth billions of dollars from the US. Some recent contracts include the deals for P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, and C-17 military transport aircraft that were involved in the Yemen evacuation.
India needs 45 fighter squadrons to counter a “two-front threat” (China and Pakistan), but it has only 34 squadrons with about 18 planes each. Also, 14 of these are equipped with vintage MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighter planes.