The Indian Air Force had pushed for direct purchase of two squadrons of French Rafale fighters to scale up its dwindling combat capabilities, especially in the backdrop of a combined threat from China and Pakistan, defence sources said.
India requires 45 fighter squadrons urgently to counter a “two-front threat – from China and Pakistan – but has only 34 squadrons with about 18 planes each.
On Friday, PM Narendra Modi announced that India would purchase 36 of these fighter planes that are ready to fly, citing critical operational requirement of the IAF.
India and France were locked in negotiations for three years over the purchase of 126 Rafale fighter jets valued at $12 billion but has been bogged down over cost and Dassault Aviation’s reluctance to stand guarantee for 108 planes to be made by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). “Keeping in mind critical operational necessity of fighter jets in India, I have talked to him (Hollande) and requested for 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition as quickly as possible under
government-to-government deal,” Modi said.
HT reported on Friday that India was seriously considering the strategic purchase of up to 40 Rafale fighters through the government-to-government route to boost the IAF’s combat readiness.
India had selected Rafale fighters over Typhoons in January, 2012 after the French firm Dassault Aviation emerged as the lowest bidder.
IAF chief Arup Raha told HT last September that it was critical to keep the Rafale fighter deal on schedule as the IAF could not afford any more delays.
India is years behind the Chinese military with its neighbour currently outnumbering the country’s combat power by a 3:1 ratio.