Quoting sources in the Ministry of Defence, a DNA report says that the much-awaited multi-billion Rafale combat aircraft deal with France has moved a step further with the Ministry of Defence finalising a ‘draft contract’.
The deal has been on the cards for 5 to 7 years to purchase 126 Rafale combat aircrafts but rising costs have been a major hurdle in the way of sealing the deal. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius was in India last month with his top agenda being pushing the multi-billion dollar Rafale aircraft deal.
Speaking on the delays in this deal, he said, “This deal will be the biggest defence deal since Independence. This is why it is being called the mother of all defence deals. Because it is so big, it has had several hurdles in its way. Issues like its present cost in comparision with other manufacturers, maintenance costs, and technology transfer, have been major issues which are being negotiated step by step. This has caused such a delay.”
A recent report in The Hindu quoting Defence sources said that a work-share formula between Dassault — the French producer of the fighter jets — and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has been achieved. At the outset, 18 planes would be flown in from France, while the HAL would manufacture major parts of 108 the plane, including fuselage and other units, pursuing a technology transfer arrangement with Dassault and Snecma, the French engine maker. The combat strength of Indian Air Force (IAF) has been depleting and present fleet of Mig fighters – Mig 21, Mig 23, Mig 27 are perceived as being unable to fulfill the requirements of the IAF. This necessitated the Government’s looking for deals to purchase new and modern jet fighters. The crisis of India’s air defence can be understood from the fact that the IAF has a sanctioned strength of 45 fighter jet squadrons but only 30 of them are operational. Old aircraft have been retired and now the IAF has an acute need to induct modern fighters and the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) in its fleet. These fit between India’s high-end Sukhoi-30MKIs and the low-end Tejas LCA lightweight fighters.
Speaking on the present air defence scenario, Ranjit Kumar said, “There is no prudence in allowing further delay in clinching the deal as the IAF is in acute need of enhancing the number of modern technology-based jet fighters in its fleet. The number of fighters has substantially gone down over the years.”
Speaking on the scenario after the retirement of Mig 21 fighters, which is due in a couple of years from now, he said, “MIG series fighters are being phased out in the IAF. There are hundreds of such fighters in the IAF fleet and their time for retirement has come. They were included in the IAF during 1960s and 1970s so obviously they have to retire now. Their presence is adding no strength to IAF’s combat strength and replacement of the ageing jet fighters with modern technology- based fighters is urgently required.”