With no end in sight for the negotiations between the Indian MoD and Dassault over the purchase of the Rafale fighter, Rosoboronexport and Eurofighter have offered price drops to swing the deal their way.
Some official word was expected from the Indian MoD about the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) during the last meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council. This has not happened despite the Indian Air Force (IAF) sounding alarm over the depleted fighter strength and the recent grounding of the Su-30MKI fleet over ejection seat issues.
However, the lack of communication has led to speculation that both sides are not able to conclude commercial negotiations with differences hinging on price, transfer of technology and the manufacture of the aircraft in India.
The only recent word has come from the French ambassador to India Francois Richier who said, “soon, contract for medium multi role combat aircraft (MMRCA) project will be finalised”. The Ambassador made the statement on October 16 while on a visit to Shimla but did not give any timeframe.
Reports said that German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier offered 126 Eurofighter aircraft for US$ 9.8 billion, about 2 billion less than the original $12 billion price tag of the MMRCA. The minister who was visiting Delhi in early September is reported to have offered to significantly drop the price of the Eurofighter. The response of the Indian side to the offer is not known.
Subsequently reports surfaced that the Eurofighter had problems with its fuselage and flight control system. There have been no entreaties from Eurofighter since then.
Last week Russian Ambassador in New Delhi Alexander Kadakin claimed that Chinese Sukhoi Flankers will "swat the Rafale like mosquitoes”. The Ambassador claimed that the Su-30MKI in service in India and the Chinese Su-27 were both superior and cheaper than the Rafale.
Rosoboronexport, the Russian arms export agency is expecting India to order more Su-30MKIs and MiG-29s in place of the Rafale. Russian sources indicated that the modernized aircraft, equipped with the AESA radar could be offered at an attractive price should India enter into negotiations to buy them. However, it remains to be seen what impact the grounding of the Su-30MKi fleet will have on future purchases of fighters from Russia.
With over 5 years gone since the MMRCA procurement began, all the contending aircraft may become obsolete. By the time the IAF gets its hands on the plane and it might be time for a mid-life upgrade.