New Delhi: More than a decade after India decided to purchase a new line of fighter aircraft, it is now official. On September 23rd, India will sign a deal for 36 Rafale fighters with France for about 7.87 billion Euros.
Along with the 36 fighters, India will also get spares and weaponry, including the Meteor missile, considered among the most advanced in the world. Of the 7.87 billion Euros, about 50 per cent will be covered under offset, which means either France will reinvest this amount in India or source equipment of this value from India.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will be in India for the signing of the deal. An Inter-Governmental Agreement between India and France allows for a follow on order of Rafale fighters with a 10 per cent cost escalation. The government claims that it has brought down the price by about 600 million Euros from the initial demand.
The deal could not be signed this January when French President Francois Hollande was the Chief Guest for the Republic Day because India wanted a better price. Negotiations went on till 2 am on January 26, but an agreement on price could not be reached then. India and France agreed to sign a general agreement without naming the price.
For the Indian Air Force, the deal is bitter-sweet. On one hand, they will be getting two squadrons of the state-of-the-art fighter, on the other hand, the original requirement was for at least 126 jets.
India needs at least 42 squadrons of fighters and has an existing strength of 32. The fighter fleet will go down further by about 10 squadrons as the MiG-21 fighter will have to be decommissioned.
The new fighters will begin entering service in 2019.