France is eyeing to divert Rafale jets from its own military production in order to fulfill India’s urgent requirement for 36 warplanes, Press Trust Of India reported Thursday.
The French are working out the modalities and nitty-gritty and will finalize once Indian and French government start talking in detail, French defense sources were quoted as saying.
Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale jets, already has an order for 24 aircraft by Egypt which has to be delivered as soon as possible. Then there is the French military order itself.
"Since India wants 36 fighter planes on an urgent basis, one of the options would be to divert the planes that are under production for French military to India. These planes can be fine-tuned to Indian requirements," the sources said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande had last week agreed to conclude an Inter- Governmental Agreement for supply of the aircraft on terms that would be better than conveyed by Dassault Aviation for the 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender.
The delivery would be in time-frame that would be compatible with the operational requirement of IAF, and the aircraft and associated systems and weapons would be delivered on the same configuration as had been tested and approved by IAF, and with a longer maintenance responsibility by France, a joint statement had said.
One of the problems facing the Dassault Aviation is the production rate of the jets. At present, reports suggest it has a capacity to make about 12 aircraft per annum. This is in line with the French orders that they have in hand.
"Dassault will have to ramp up its production capacities to meet both Egypt and Indian orders at the same time. While they will obviously do it, it cannot happen overnight," sources said, pointing out that various other firms like Thales are also part of the Rafale project.
French military already have three squadron of Rafale fighter jets. The French Navy too have placed an order but the sources did not confirm the total number they have signed up for.
Parrikar has said all future negotiations for purchase of French Rafale fighters would be through government to government route.
He said futher negotiation will decide if India goes in for more Rafale jets and if so, how many more.
The IAF has been banking on the Rafale, the indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft 'Tejas' and the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft deal with Russia, but all the three are running behind schedule.