Rafale is a twin-engine, multirole fighter aircraft produced by French defence manufacturer Dassault. In 2012, the Indian Air Force (IAF) said the Rafale was its preferred aircraft. During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to France in 2015, India requested ‘rapid delivery’ of 36 aircraft in flyaway condition. The first squadrons of the Rafale are set to join the IAF fleet by 2019.
Rafale was not India’s only choice. Several international aviation manufacturers expressed interest upon knowing the Indian government’s mammoth plan to revamp its air force fleet by introducing MMRCAs( Medium Multi-role combat aircraft competition)
Six renowned aircraft manufacturers competed to bag the contract of 126 fighter jets, which was touted to be the largest-ever defence procurement deal of India.
All aircraft were tested by the IAF and after careful analysis on the bids, two of them — Eurofighter and Rafale — were shortlisted. Dassault bagged the contract to provide 126 fighter jets as it was the lowest bidder and the aircraft were said to be easy to maintain.
-Rafale is a twin-engine medium multi-role combat aircraft, manufactured by French company Dassault Aviation. Dassault claims Rafale has ‘Omnirole’ capability to perform several actions at the same time, such as firing air-to-air missiles at a very low altitude.
-Rafale can carry out both air-to-ground, as well as air-to-air attacks and interceptions during the same sortie.
-The aircraft is fitted with an on-board oxygen generation system (OBOGS) which suppresses the need for liquid oxygen re-filling or ground support for oxygen production.
-It carries out a wide range of missions: Air-defence/air-superiority, Reconnaissance, close air support dynamic targeting, Air-to-ground precision strike/interdiction, anti-ship attacks, nuclear deterrence, buddy-buddy refuelling.
Rafale deal is a govt-to-govt agreement between India and France for procurement of 36 fighters. The proposal was put forth in 2000 during Vajpayee’s rein for procurement of advanced jet fighters as part of modernisation of the Indian Air Force. Though the process was initiated by UPA-I government in 2007. The UPA-II govt zeroed in on Rafale jets in 2012 and the deal was inked with Dassault for 126 Multi-Role Combat Aircrafts. After new govt came to power in 2014, India and France announced a government-to-government deal in 2015 to acquire 36 Rafale jets in fly-away.
According to the joint statement issued then, the delivery would be in time-frame that would be compatible with the operational requirement of IAF; and that the aircraft and associated systems and weapons would be delivered on the same configuration as had been tested and approved by Indian Air Force, and with a longer maintenance responsibility. The proposals were presented to the Defence Acquisition Council and after a Cabinet Committee on Security nod the deal was signed in 2016. French President François Hollande visited India in January 2016, a memorandum of understanding on the purchase of Rafale jets was signed for $7.8 billion.
Although the deal was originally envisaged to be for 126 aircraft with an option of 74 more, the final agreement has settled around 36 jets. Projected to cost $12 billion in 2012, that figure has also come down to $7.88 billion
WHY IS RAFALE IMPORTANT FOR INDIA:
-It will help maintain the IAF’s air superiority as they have no equivalents in the region. Given the technological sophistication and the long range, the Rafales fighter jets will play a lead role as nuclear delivery platforms in India’s second-strike capability, replacing the Mirage 2000 fighters. The entry of Rafale fighter jets will definitely augment the capabilities of IAF. Rafale jets with its advanced technology and high range it will increase the capability of unchallenged IAF in the region. Currently India is one of the most diverse air forces in the world. With an entry of Rafale fighter jets, the diversity will increase
– Procurement of 36 aircraft will plug the gaps in operational requirements. It will buy IAF some more time before it starts decommissioning the MiG 21 and MiG 27 squadrons. The Rafale’s primary role is to replace the IAF’s retiring fleet: while the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft is expected to step in at the low end, the Rafale will occupy the mid-level force structure with the expectation that an advanced indigenous descendant of the Tejas or the fifth generation fighter that India is jointly developing with Russia will form the top of the line component.
-India’s Rafale will deploy the in-development BrahMos NG missile in either a twin or single weapon load-out when the system is ready from 2021. The MBDA Scalp and BrahMos will provide planners with unique subsonic/supersonic stand-off attack options available to no other air force in the world
– the Indian Rafale will be the first IAF combat aircraft that stands technologically linked to improvements being progressively added to Rafales in the French military. The improvements under the proposed F4 standard, for instance, which was announced in March and is currently under discussion, will transfer to the IAF’s fleet when ready.
CONCERNS REGARDING THE DEAL:
-Transfer of technology: The current deal has a 50% offset. component. Accordingly, Dassault will manufacture items worth 50% of the deal in India. However, the absence of transfer of technology (ToT) component is raised as an issue. Also, no role is guaranteed for any Indian public sector company, including HAL.
– The present deal as direct government-to-government agreement, as against the earlier open tender, is criticised.
-Also, the 36 fighters are said to be purchased at a much higher price than earlier negotiated. The previous government’s price for 126 aircraft was never finalised, and no contract was signed or executed. Hence, no official figure on the price was ever given. Recently, the Defence Minister declined to share the cost of the Rafale fighters under the new deal, with Rajya Sabha.
It was said that the price details were “classified information”. This was as per the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) between the Governments of India and France. Accordingly, material exchanged under IGA is governed by the provisions of the Security Agreement. Security Agreement relates to Protection of Classified Information and Material in the field of Defence. It was signed in 2008 by the two nations.
This deal is India’s biggest-ever procurement. In the effectiveness of the Rafale deal lies the future of other defence procurements Rafale has a huge potential to develop direct and indirect employment opportunities in India. Besides high end technology like engine know-how, major structural assembly will give a major fillip in development of the aviation sector in India.