Negotiations for India to buy 36 French Rafale fighter jets are almost at the close, the defence ministry said, with sources saying the price will be set at around $9 billion (approx Rs 65,000 crore).
Both sides had hoped to wrap up the strategic order during President Francois Hollande’s visit for India’s Republic Day celebration in January, but hard bargaining on price stalled a final result.
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.
Here’s a quick take on the deal.
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.
– India desperately needs to upgrade its ageing Soviet-era fleet plagued by engine troubles and poor availability.
– The Indian Air Force projected a requirement for medium, multi-role combat aircraft 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 emerged as the frontrunner for the contract in January 2012 over five international rivals. However, the tender stood cancelled when Modi announced India would buy 36 Rafales under a government-to-government 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.
The Rafale specs
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