In a major boost to the Indian Air Force, India has signed a formal agreement with France to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets for $8.7bn, in a major defense deal.
The deal was signed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his visiting French counterpart Jean Yves Le Drian today sixteen months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India’s plans to buy 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in fly away condition during his trip to France.
The delivery of the jets will start in 36 months and will be completed in 66 months.
India is looking to modernise its Soviet-era military and the deal is the result of years of negotiation.
“You can only ever be completely sure once has been signed and that’s what happened today,” Mr Le Drian told AFP news agency after Friday’s signing ceremony.
The first Rafales are expected to be delivered by 2019 and India is set to have all 36 jets within six years.
Friday’s deal is a substantial reduction from the 126 planes that India originally planned to buy, but is still the biggest-ever foreign order of Rafale fighters, AFP says.
French President Francois Hollande has hailed it as “a mark of the recognition by a major military power of the operational performance, the technical quality and the competitiveness of the French aviation industry”.
Here’s what you need to know about the Rafale jet
- The combat aircraft comes equipped with state-of-the-art missiles like ‘Meteor’ and ‘Scalp’ that will give IAF a capability that had been sorely missing in its arsenal.
- Its Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Meteor air-to-air missile with a range in excess of 150 km makes the Rafale a strategic weapon in the hands of IAF
- ‘Scalp’, a long-range air-to-ground cruise missile with a range in excess of 300 km, also gives IAF an edge over its adversaries.
- According to Dassault Aviation, the Rafale can carry out both air-to-ground strikes, as well as air-to-air attacks and interceptions during the same sortie.
- Stating that the Rafale has ‘Omnirole’ capability, Dassault Aviation claims that the aircraft can perform several actions at the same time, such as firing air-to-air missiles during a very low altitude penetration phase.