M A I N   N E W S

Finally, French fighter for IAF
nRs 54k crore deal for 126 Rafale jets sealed n India’s biggest buy in decades
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, January 31
French firm Dassault Aviation has bagged the mega $10.4-billion (Rs 54,000 crore) contract to supply 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) that will give the Indian Air Force — which is eagerly looking to replace its ageing fleets of MiGs and other fighter jets — a much-needed shot in the arm.

A fierce bidding battle was witnessed between Dassault’s Rafale and European consortium Eurofighter’s Typhoon to clinch what has been billed as the mother of all defence deals. Finally, it was the twin-engine, delta wing Rafale, which emerged as the lowest bidder today.

“The French firm Dassault Rafale has emerged as the lowest bidder and cheaper than its European rival EADS (maker of Eurofighter) in the tender and will be offered to supply the aircraft to the IAF,” top sources said.

They said the representatives of Dassault here were informed about the development in the morning and further negotiations on price will be held with them in the next 10-15 days.

The Rafale is used by the French Air Force and Navy and was deployed during the recent France-led NATO strikes on Libya. The final order could eventually go up to 200 aircraft as there is a provision for increasing the number of jets by 50 percent without any price hike. According to the Request for Proposal (RFP), the winner of the contract will have to supply 18 of the 126 aircraft to the Indian Air Force in 36 months in a fly-away condition from its facilities and the remaining would be produced at HAL facilities in Bangalore. The contract is likely to signed at the end of this fiscal in March or early next fiscal.

Dassualt Aviation’s Mirage-2000 fighter is already being used by the Indian Air Force for the past two decades.

Six companies, including American F-16 and F-18, Russian MiG 35, Swedish Saab Gripen alongwith Eurofighter and Dassault Rafale were in the race in the beginning. But in April last year, the Defence Ministry shortlisted Dassault and EADS, evicting the American, Russian and Swedish bids. The process was started with the issuing of a global tender in 2007 after which all the six contenders were subjected to extensive field evaluation trials by the Indian Air Force at several locations across the globe.

A defence ministry source said the Rafale was preferred because of lower costs, and the Indian Air Force’s familiarity with French warplanes such as the Mirage. "Unit-wise, the French plane is much cheaper than the Eurofighter. Moreover, the Indian Air Force, which is well equipped with French fighters, is favouring the French,” said the source. In the last six months, this is the third big defence deal bagged by French firms. India had recently signed a deal worth over $ 2.4 billion with Dassault Aviation and Thales for upgrading the 51 Mirage 2000 fighters. Earlier this month, the government also cleared a proposal to procure around 490 MICA air-to-air missiles for Mirage 2000 from French firm MBDA, which will cost $ 970 million. Also, a French company, DCNS, is building six scorpene submarines at the Mazagon Docks Mumbai under a Rs 20,000 crore deal. Another French company Safran supplies engines under brand name ‘turbomeca’ for the upgraded version of the Dhruv chopper used by the Army. 





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