India announced on Friday that it will buy 36 ready-to-fly Rafale fighter jets
NEW DELHI: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today hailed as a “great decision” India’s deal with France to buy 36 “ready-to-fly” Rafale fighter jets, saying the planes would be inducted into the Air Force within a span of two years, according to the Press Trust of India.
The long-awaited deal was clinched on Friday, the first day of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to France. “I have asked President (Francois Hollande) to supply 36 ready-to-fly Rafale jets to India,” PM Modi said at a news conference, after meeting with French President Francois Hollande in Paris. He said the terms and conditions of the contract have yet to be finalised and officials from both sides would work out the details.
The original plan was for India to buy 18 off-the-shelf jets from France’s Dassault Aviation, with 108 others being assembled in India by the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited or HAL in Bengaluru. Sources now say that if negotiations work out, India will buy 144 aircraft, 18 more than the original 126, ensuring that 108 jets will still be assembled at home.
India is ordering the 36 off-the shelf Rafale fighters to speed up the purchase and immediately give the Air Force two squadrons of the jets that it desperately needs to upgrade its ageing fleet, sources said.
“There was a real operational need because India needs combat jets because a certain number of countries have been equipping themselves, so there was a desire to speed up the process,” Dassault Chief Executive Eric Trappier told Europe 1 radio.
India already has previous ties with Dassault, having bought Mirage 2000 fighter jets. In March, Dassault delivered two modernised Mirage jets to India.
For three years, the Rafale deal has been mired in extensive negotiations. Dassault has been reluctant to provide guarantees for the aircraft that are produced in India.
The Rafale was chosen in 2012 over rival offers from the United States, Europe and Russia. The original proposal for 126 fighter jets was worth at least 12 billion dollars.