New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Saturday lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a new Rafale fighter deal with France. He said Rafale fighter jets will be inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) within a span of two years.
India has decided to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets in flyaway condition from France after Modi and French President Francois Hollande on Friday agreed to conclude an Inter-Governmental Agreement bypassing the protracted negotiations for purchase of 126 such jets.
"India has finally broken the ice over the deal which has been pending for the last 17 years. The deal is a great decision taken on the terms and conditions that are better," Parrikar said.
"Keeping in view the critical operational necessity of fighter aircraft in India, I have asked President to provide 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition as quickly as possible after agreements between both countries. We both have decided that these will be provided to India in modified terms and conditions," Modi announced at a joint news conference with Hollande after their summit talks at Elysee Palace.
A joint statement issued after the talks said the two leaders agreed to conclude an Inter-Governmental Agreement for supply of the aircraft on terms that would be "better" than that conveyed as part of a separate process underway, an apparent reference to the ongoing talks that kicked off in 2012 for years for the sale of 126 Rafale fighter jets valued at $12 billion.
IAF selected the Rafael fighter under the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal after a close competition which also saw Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, Mikoyan MiG-35 and Saab JAS 39 Gripen in the race. While Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, Mikoyan MiG-35 and Saab JAS 39 Gripen were eliminated very early, Dassault Rafale edged out the Eurofighter Typhoon in the final negotiation.
At present the IAf has just 34 fighter squadrons against the ideal 45 squadrons required to take on the threat from both Pakistan and China simultaneously. The ageing MiG-21 and MiG-27 planes are being phased out which will see the IAF strength depleting by at least eight more squadrons.
Under the MMRCA terms, India is to get only 18 Rafale directly while the rest 108 fighters will be manufactured by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. But the final deal between India and France is stuck over who would be responsible for the manufacturers' guarantee on 108 jets which could be built HAL. India wants Rafale maker Dassault Aviation to take full responsibility which the latter has till now not agreed to.