India is unlikely to place a follow-on order to purchase twin engine Rafale fighter planes manufactured by French Aerospace Dassault Aviation in spite of the country’s airforce fleet being depleted.
The Indian government signed a contract to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly-away condition on September 23 for $8.8 billion.
Even though the actual plan was to purchase 126 Rafale jets, it was trimmed because of the high cost of each aircraft and only 36 were bought after negotiations with France, The Hindu Business Line reported Sunday.
As a result, there are hardly any possibilities that the government will place any further orders to buy these expensive planes, officials in the Defence Ministry said.
“Follow on orders for the Rafale are a big question mark. Where is the money going to come from? There are much cheaper options available,” said a senior official.
Currently, IAF has 34 squadrons out of the 42 required to guard the skies. This is the lowest count for the IAF in the last decade. Each squadron consists of 18 aircraft. Apart from this, 11 squadrons consisting of MiG-21s, are looking at retirement, which will pose an additional challenge.
However, sources said the government was now focused on acquiring single-engine fighter jets, the deal size of which is around $12 billion. The frontrunners in this are Saab’s Gripen and Lockheed Martin’s F-16.
Dassault Aviation has already clarified the government that it will not be able to go for full transfer of technology and create an industrial ecosystem by manufacturing the planes here under the ‘Make in India’ programme unless it is given additional orders.
Due to incapability of India to buy further planes from Rafale, Boeing and MiG are now eyeing the deal. Boeing has offered its F/A-18 Super Hornet, which is being used by the US Navy.
Moreover, the cost of maintaining Rafale jets is also higher than other aircraft offering a similar platform.
Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO, Dassault Aviation had said during Aero India show last month that the company would set up a plant to manufacture the fighter jets in India only for an order of more than a 100 jets.