India has concluded a deal to acquire 36 Dassault Rafale fighters, with a contract signed in New Delhi by the nation’s defence minister, Manohar Parrikar, and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on 23 September.
The deal is worth €7.75 billion ($8.69 billion) for the French-built aircraft along with associated weapons and a support package.
Finalisation of the contract brings to a close a long-running acquisition process to equip the Indian air force with the Rafale, which was selected as the winner of its medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) tender in 2012, defeating the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Eurofighter Typhoon. Other previous candidates for the deal included the Lockheed Martin F-16, RAC MiG-35 and Saab Gripen.
The air force was originally slated to acquire 126 aircraft via the programme, but the original deal ran aground over cost concerns. It was revived by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to France in 2105, when he declared that 36 aircraft would be acquired in “fly-away” condition from Dassault. This was keeping in view the “critical operational necessity” of the service, he said at the time.
It remains to be seen if India will decide at a later date to acquire additional fly-away examples of the type, or whether production could be transferred to India at a later date – as was the intention under the original MMRCA tender.
The French airframer says the contract award “represents a decisive step forward in achieving Dassault Aviation’s goal of establishing itself in India with a view to developing wide-ranging co-operation under the ‘Make in India’ policy.”
European company MBDA will supply a package of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons for India’s Rafales, but a company source declines to specify which systems will be supplied.
After long failing to secure an export buyer for its fighter – developed for the French air force and navy – Dassault has now signed deals to deliver a combined 84 for Egypt, India and Qatar. It concluded deals with Cairo and Doha last year, with the customers to acquire 24 examples each. In July, the manufacturer detailed its order backlog also containing 34 Rafales for its domestic customer.