India could consider buying more Sukhoi-30 fighters if the $25 billion proposed deal to buy 126 Rafale jets from France collapsed, a top government official said.
India had selected Rafale fighters over Eurofighter Typhoons in January 2012 after French firm Dassault Aviation emerged as the lowest bidder for the world’s biggest fighter contract. But negotiations have yielded little progress with both sides haggling over clauses in the proposed contract for nearly three years.
The official attributed the delay in the fighter project to France reneging on “key conditions” laid down in the global tender for acquiring the jets. He indicated India had left its options open for buying the Su-30s if the deal with France fell through.
If the Rafale deal is settled, Dassault will supply 18 fighters to the Indian Air Force in flyaway condition, while the remaining 108 will be licence produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
Until recently, there were major differences between the French firm and HAL over responsibility for the aircraft to be built in India. But HAL sources on Wednesday said the differences had been ironed out and talks between Dassault and the ministry were in final stage.
In September, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha had told HT that it was critical to keep the Rafale fighter deal on schedule as the air force could not afford any more delays.
A parliamentary panel had recently flagged concerns about the IAF’s depleting combat capability in the context of tackling a two-front challenge – euphemism for a combined threat from China and Pakistan.
The top government official also made it clear that under existing rules, there was no scope for the Eurofighter consortium, backed by four European countries, to re-enter the race to sell its Typhoon fighters to India. The Germany-led consortium had come up with a revised proposal -- sweetened with a discount -- to sell 126 Typhoons to India.