India today inked a Euro 7.87 billion (approx Rs 59,000) deal with France for purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets capable of carrying nuclear weapons and missiles.. This is expected to give Indian Air Force (IAF) greater striking power.
Its integration on the Rafale jets will mean IAF can hit targets inside both Pakistan and across the northern and eastern borders while staying within India’s territorial boundary. The Rafales will be stationed at two bases--Sarsawa in Haryana and Hasimara in West Bengal.
The Rafale combat aircraft to be manufactured by French aviation company Dassault will have various India- specific modifications including Israeli helmet mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10 hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking, towed decoy systems among others.
These combat aircraft, delivery of which will start in 36 months and will be completed in 67 months from the date the contract is inked, comes equipped with state-of-the-art missiles weaponry that will give IAF a capability that had been sorely missing in its arsenal.
The Agreement was signed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his visiting French counterpart Jean Yves Le Drian. It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who announced India’s willingness to purchase the aircraft when he visited France 16 months ago.
“Pleased to inform that India has signed an agreement for procurement of 36 Rafale aircraft with weapon systems, five years complete spares and maintenance, performance based logistics, India specific special provisions. This is an achievement which will give the IAF the required potency in terms of penetration and capability,” Parrikar told reporters at the South Block.
The deal, first fighter plane contract in 20 years, comes with an immediate saving of 328 million Euros over the one struck during the previous UPA government, which was scrapped by the Narendra Modi government, besides a 50 per cent offset clause.
The 50 per cent offset clause means that Indian businesses, both big and small, will gain work to the tune of over three billion Euros.
Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Tappier said the French company is ready to be part of ‘Make in India’ initiative and open to manufacturing the fighters in India if the plane is shortlisted for a bigger order.
The features that make the Rafale a strategic weapon in the hands of IAF, which is currently down to 34 squadrons as against a sanctioned strength of 44, includes its Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Meteor air-to-air missile with a range of 150 KM.
During the Kargil war, India had used a BVR of 50 km range while Pakistan had none. However, Pakistan later acquired 80- km-range BVR.
Defence experts said that with ‘Meteor’ the balance of power in the air has again tilted in India’s favour.