The eagerly awaited final clearance for the Indo-French Rafale deal could come any day now, with the price of the combat aircraft expected to be finally brought down from €11.6 billion to €7.8 billion. The protracted and tough negotiations in this deal will save crores of rupees from the Indian exchequer.
Rafales are twin-engine medium multirole combat aircraft manufactured by Dassault Aviation, a French firm.
Highly-placed authoritative sources told ‘The Navhind Times’ that the official announcement in this regard would soon be made by the central government. The deal would be an impressive achievement on the part of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
The deal for the 36 aircraft, in all probability, will receive green signal, during the forthcoming meeting of the cabinet committee on security following the completion of all negotiation formalities by the defence ministry with its French counterpart.
The procurement of MMRCA was considered by the Indian government when the Indian Air Force sought additional fighter jets in 2001 as its fleet largely consisted of heavy and light-weight combat aircraft. The defence ministry, therefore, considered bringing in intermediate medium-weight fighter jets. The actual process for this procurement began in 2007, with the Defence Acquisition Council, headed by the then defence minister A K Antony approving the request for proposal to buy 126 aircraft in August 2007, in turn kick-starting the bidding process.
The Initial bidders were Lockheed Martin’s F-16s, Boeing’s F/A-18s, Eurofighter Typhoon, Russia’s MiG-35, Sweden’s Saab’s Gripen and Rafale.
All aircraft were tested by the IAF and after careful analysis of the bids, two of them – Eurofighter and Rafale – were shortlisted. Dassault bagged the contract to provide 126 fighter jets, as it was the lowest bidder and the aircraft were said to be easy to maintain.
The negotiations in this deal were however deadlocked on the issue of transferring of technology to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to license build 108 Rafales in Bangalore, with only additional 18 Rafales to be actually bought off the shelf.
The fighter jet deal, which was mainly wedged over this matter, was eventually restructured during the Paris trip of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2015.
The deal will now offer India cutting-edge technology including the jet-engine know-how.
Rafale, it is expected, will also be able to carry the Meteor long-range air-to-air missile and Scalp long-range air-to-land missile, when they become available.
Furthermore, the French defence companies namely Safran and Thales would also invest in India under this deal.