'$15 bn Rafale aircraft deal still has many hurdles to cross'

On Tuesday, 31 January, the government of India announced that the French jet Rafale was the lowest bidder for the supply of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) to replace the ageing and obsolete squadrons of Mig-21s, Mig-23s, and Mig-27s with the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The contract, valued anywhere between $15-16 billion, depending on how it is finally negotiated, involves the supply of 18 aircraft in a flyaway condition, with the balance being manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) through a technology transfer agreement. This places a huge responsibility for the aircraft on HAL, which has not exactly covered itself with glory in the delivery and quality of Mig aircraft in the past.

  bn Rafale aircraft deal still has many hurdles to cross

Retired Vice-Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal PK Barbora. Image courtesy PIB

To understand the implications of the contract, Firstpost spoke to retired Vice-Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal PK Barbora, in a telephonic interview. He said though Rafale is the lowest cost bidder, the final contract will depend on the negotiations, and the losing bidder, the Eurofighter Typhoon, could still get a look-in if Rafale does not work out.

The following are some of the key points Air Marshal Barbora made:

  • It will take at least five or six months for the contract negotiations to be completed since these involve details for transfer of technology, final price, and off-sets (purchases by France to offset a part of the cost of the deal).
  • The total value of the contract could be in the range of $15-16 billion, depending on how the negotiations are concluded.
  • HAL’s role will be crucial, since in the past it has been found wanting in terms of delivery schedules and other glitches.
  • It may take all of five years before the first aircraft that is made to the Indian Air Force’s specifications is available to the country. The 18 flyaway aircraft will, of course, come earlier.
  • The IAF is at least seven squadrons short of its sanctioned strength of 42. The Ralafe order needs to be expedited to ensure that this shortfall does not endure.

Listen to the edited excerpts of the telephonic interview.

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Updated Date: Feb 02, 2012 18:45:18 IST