Sixteen years after the proposal for a replacement fighter jet was first mooted by the Indian Air Force (IAF) and 17 months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced acquisition of 36 fighter jets in Paris, India inked the approximately Rs 59,000 crore Rafale deal with France on Friday.
The inter-government agreement, signed between Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, specifies that the first aircraft will be inducted into the IAF within 36 months, and the full complement will be in service within 67 months.
“Rafale is a potent aircraft for deep strike capabilities. It can move at high altitudes and has potential weapons with the most modern technology. It will add to the capability of the IAF,” Parrikar said.
The induction of these 36 fighters — 28 single-seaters and eight twin-seaters — is expected to bridge the shortfall in the depleting number of fighter squadrons in the IAF.
Top defence sources said that the French fighters, equipped with Meteor air-to-air and Mica air-to-land missiles, will be delivered in a fly-away condition by Dassault. Moreover, offsets of half the value of the deal will be executed by France in India within seven years. Although Dassault is yet to submit the full details of its Indian offset partners, 74 per cent of the offsets are mandated to be exported from India. Another 6 per cent of the offsets are for technological sharing, which is currently being negotiated by the DRDO.
“We expect export worth Euro 3 billion to happen from India due to offsets as part of the deal. This will take a couple of years to start but it will create jobs and opportunities in India,” sources said.
Although the base version of Rafale remains the same as the one being used by the French Air Force, the Indian version of the fighter jet will have 14 India-specific enhancements.