New Delhi: Defence minister Manohar Parrikar signed an agreement with French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Friday to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault Aviation SA that will give India an edge over Pakistan.
The deal, estimated at $8.9 billion, has been in the works for years. India started the hunt for multi-role fighter jets in 2007. It finally decided to scrap that tender and announced it will buy 36 Rafale jets directly from France under a government-to-government deal during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Paris last year.
The agreement also covers weapon systems for the aircraft, supply of spare parts and maintenance for five years and performance-based logistics.
“This is an achievement which will give the IAF (Indian Air Force) the required potency in terms of penetration and capability,” Parrikar said after the signing ceremony on Friday.
Le Drian said the agreement was a “historic decision that opens a new chapter in our relations.”
Plane-maker Dassault said the move will help industrial cooperation with India.
“Together, Indian and French companies alike, we will endeavour to ensure ambitious industrial cooperation. I am certain that the Rafale and its performance will hold high the colours of the Indian Air Force. It will demonstrate unstinting efficiency in protecting the people of India and the sovereignty of the world’s largest democracy”, Eric Trappier, Dassault Aviation chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement.
Rafale has been used by the French armed forces in combat operations for more than a decade. It entered service with the French Navy in 2004 and with the French Air Force in 2006. Some of the 152 planes delivered so far have been used in combat in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq and Syria.
Under India’s so-called offsets policy, Dassault will have to procure Indian-manufactured components equivalent to a certain value of the deal to help local defence manufacturing.
Dassault said the deal was “decisive step forward in achieving Dassault Aviation’s goal of establishing itself in India with a view to developing wide-ranging cooperation under the “Make in India” policy promoted by Mr Narendra Modi.”
These combat aircraft, delivery of which are expected to start in 36 months and be completed in 66 months, comes equipped with state-of-the-art missiles like ‘Meteor’ and ‘Scalp’. With the air-to-air Meteor missiles, Indian Air Force will be able to hit targets as far as 150km away, compared with 80km it has so far been capable of targeting. Scalp, an air-to-ground cruise missile with a range in excess of 300km, will also gives the IAF an edge over its adversaries.
“This (deal) will give us a combat edge over Pakistan. They are using mostly Chinese aircraft which are not combat-proven and their quality is doubtful,” said Laxman Kumar Behera, an analyst at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.