India’s cabinet last night okayed the Dassault Rafale fighter jet contract signing which the French Defence Minister Le Drian is expected to witness together with his Indian counterpart, Manohar Parrikar on Friday.
The Euro 7.8-billion deal for 36 Rafale fighters is the biggest ever single country deal for France topping off 24 aircraft each to Egypt and Qatar. Heavily customised for India, it will get 14 India-specific enhancements.
The Indian deal is expected to remove French state subsidies for the Rafale program in the form of French MoD orders and create some 7000 jobs.
The French fighter will be fitted with the 150-km range Meteor missile which is is a Beyond Visual Range missile providing a no-escape zone three times greater than that of a competing missile such as the American AMRAAM missile. The Meteor can hit farther and with greater effectiveness than missiles in the arsenal of Pakistani or Chinese air forces.
The Rafales will also be fitted with MICA missiles, an Air to Land precision missile of more than 300 km range.
The French will also guarantee performance-based logistics support which means that 75 per cent of the fleet will be airworthy at any given time. This a first ever for India where the air-worthiness is part of the purchase agreement
In comparison, the airworthiness of IAF’s f Sukhoi Su30 fleet is around 50 per cent and efforts are being made to increase it to 65%.
India negotiated hard over the price and terms. The French had made an opening offer of Euro 12 billion in May last year when the negotiations began. The French offer came down to Euro 8.6 billion on the midnight of 25-26 January, when French President François Hollande was in India as a chief guest for the Republic Day celebrations.
But the Indian side wanted the price to be reduced further. It was in May this year that the two sides finally agreed at a price of Euro 7.87 bn. This includes the cost of 36 fighters, weapons package, performance-based logistics, India-specific enhancements and associated supplies.