The nuclear weapons delivery capability of the Dassault Rafale and France shifting this year from Mirage 2000 to Rafale for its strategic strike role might have helped clinch the aircraft deal in India.
“The deciding factor in buying the Rafales, even though in such small numbers was its ability to be used as airborne strategic delivery system,” Sunday Express quoted unnamed Indian officials as saying.
“The French Air Force, Armee de l’ Air, is shifting from Mirages to Rafales for its nuclear strike role this year. They have already started the process, and although our nuclear delivery systems are different from theirs, it does tell us that Rafale is suited for that task,” said a defence official.
“The French Mirage-2000s have been modified for the delivery of our strategic arsenal. France has continued to provide maintenance, spares and technical support for these Mirages, which may not have been the case with some other foreign countries. We expect the same degree of cooperation from France when we modify and use the Rafales for that role,” said another official.
French Defence Minister Jean Yves Le Drian is likely to visit India on Saturday to conclude the 7.89 billion Euros Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) between India and France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets, bringing to an end the 17-month-long negotiations.
Official sources had earlier said that the draft of the IGA was being finalised after which it would go to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for a formal clearance.
The price was brought down from nearly 10 billion Euros, as sought initially, due to various reasons, including the discount offered by the French government and reworking of some of the criteria.
The deal comes with the clause of delivering 50 per cent offsets, creating business worth at least 3 billion Euros for smaller Indian companies and creating thousands of new jobs in India through the offsets.
The Rafales being bought by India will have advanced features like Advanced Electronically Scanned Array Radar, mid-air refuelling and advanced electronic warfare equipment as part of its design.