An Update on the Indian Rafale Contract By India Strategic


2015-10-07 By Gulshan Luthra

Dateline New Delhi and Paris

In an interview with India Strategic and at remarks at his annual pre-Air Force Day briefing here October 3, Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha observed that the Indian Air Force (IAF) was “terribly short” of modern aircraft, and that the Government was alive to this.

“The contract negotiations with the French are in process… Our intent is to conclude the agreement at the earliest,” he said.

Reliable sources told India Strategic that there were some difficulties in signing the Inter Governmental Agreement (IGA) even after discussions between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his host President Francois Hollande during the Indian leader’s visit to Paris in April, particularly over offsets and some Transfer of Technology (ToT).

And as the process was getting stuck again, Mr. Modi went out of the way to telephonically call Mr Hollande in September to address the difficulties from the Indian side, and the French leader showed tremendous goodwill and understanding in helping resolve the situation.

Thanks to the good relations Mr. Modi has built with Mr. Hollande, Dassault has agreed to 50 per cent offsets, and the discussions are now on fast-track, sources said.

Head of Indian Air Force

A smiling Air Chief Marshal Raha said that he hoped to get the first squadron of Rafales in two to three years.

Notably, the Indian side deputed IAF’s Deputy Chief, Air Marshal SBP Sinha while the French, Air Marshal Stephane Reb, Director of the International Directorate of the DGA (General Directorate for Armament) of the French Ministry of Defence to conduct and conclude the negotiations. Both have exchanged visits, and the stipulated agreement – the enabler to move forward – will be signed any time, perhaps well before December 2015.

Air Chief Marshal Raha said that the IAF needs at least six squadrons – 126 aircraft – of Rafales or equivalent aircraft in the Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) category for frontline operations, and it is to be seen if IAF gets more Rafales or other aircraft. He was asked if there was an option to go in for another machine.

He said he favored Government-to-Government contracts as they are speedy and devoid of competitive politics, and future acquisitions should go on the same lines.

As for more Rafales, he said “the need is there, and if Costs, Transfer of Technology and Make in India requirements are good, we may get more.”

Asked if there was a choice for the US, Swedish or other aircraft manufacturers to be back in fray, he indicated a possibility but described the Rafale as “a very good aircraft.”

Egypt and Qatar have bought the Rafale while the UAE is considering it, he pointed out.

About the overall deficiency of combat aircraft, Air Chief Marshal Raha said that “50 per cent offset is being sought from the French industrial suppliers as part of the procurement of 36 Rafale aircraft.

“Greater visibility (however) would emerge only after the Indian negotiating team completes the negotiations.”

Air Chief Marshal Raha underlined the importance of Make in India, and pointed out that “the offset implementation under the Rafale project will support” this, adding that some other similar initiatives are also underway in the aviation sector.

It may be recalled that IAF had issued a tender for 126 MMRCAs in 2007, and Rafale emerged as the winner in 2012 in the six-corner contest.

But negotiations were bogged down over offsets and responsibility over the quality of production at the state-run HAL, the prime integrator for the aircraft in India. India finally scrapped the deal and Mr Modi personally sought 36 aircraft to meet IAF’s immediate requirements.

Further acquisitions are possible, depending upon the conclusion of the current deal.

French sources told this writer during a recent visit to Paris that Dassault’s partners in the Rafale program, primarily Thales and Safran, were already gearing up their production lines for the Indian order.

Significantly, the French Government has asked Dassault, the designer and integrator of Rafale, to divert requirements of the French Air Force (Armée de l’Air) to Egypt, Qatar and India.

India is likely to conclude an agreement for 36 Rafale combat jets with France “soon, latest by end 2015” for delivery in two to three years

Republished with permission of our strategic partner, India Strategic