Defence minister Manohar Parrikar said on Sunday that India may get Rafale fighter aircraft from France earlier than the agreed-upon 36 months.
“As per terms of the deal it is 36 months (during which the delivery has to start), but it may come slightly earlier. We have requested them to (deliver it) as fast as possible,” he said.
On September 23, India and France signed the Euro 7.87-billion (Rs 59,000 crore approx) deal for Rafale fighter jets, equipped with latest missiles and weapon system besides multiple India-specific modifications that will give the IAF greater “potency” over arch-rival Pakistan.
The delivery of the jets, which experts say will allow the air force to strike targets in Pakistan and China from within Indian territory. will begin in 36 months and will be completed in 66 months from the date the contract is inked.
The deal is crucial for the Indian Air Force that is grappling with a dwindling fighter fleet. The IAF has 33 fighter squadrons, each consisting of 18 planes. It requires 45 combat units to counter a combined threat from China and Pakistan.
Under the deal, the ‘vanila price’ (just of the aircraft alone) will cost about 91 million euros each for a single seater and about 94 million euros for a two-seater trainer aircraft.
Parrikar also said that a 12-member committee to suggest structural changes in the military on cutting down flab and reducing revenue (maintenance) expenditure will soon submit its report.
The committee is headed by Lt Gen (Retd) DB Shekatkar.
The Narendra Modi government had cleared the deal amid indications that the French government waived off the advance guarantee, allowing India to save 134 million euros.