While the two squadrons of 36 Rafale jets to be procured under direct purchase from France would meet the critical operational requirements of the Air Force, the need for additional aircraft would be addressed through the ‘Make in India’ process, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said.
This gives some clarity on the government’s plans for fighter aircraft procurement after the surprise announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to buy 36 Rafale jets from France under direct purchase through a government-to-government deal.
“I think two squadrons at least if you get in fly-away condition, meantime you can work on ‘Make in India’ process. While Air Force gets what it requires, the ‘Make in India’ process also gets enough time to work on,” Mr. Parrikar told NDTV on Tuesday.
Stating that the Rafale deal shouldn’t have gone through a global tender in the first place, Mr. Parrikar said “the previous UPA government did not think it through.”
He also pointed that this was an in-principle decision and the details would be worked out by the two governments and claimed that the deal for direct purchase was better than the original Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal.
Under the MMRCA deal, India was negotiating the purchase of 126 aircraft for over $20 billion of which 18 would come in fly-away condition while the remaining were to be manufactured in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
However, Mr. Parrikar did not elaborate on how the ‘Make in India’ process would unfold. Officials said there are two ways to go about. One is accelerating the development of Light Combat Aircraft MK II and buying additional Sukhois from Russia while the other option would be to get Dassault to set up a joint manufacturing facility in India in partnership with a private sector firm to build additional Rafales.