The deal struck with France for purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets will bring some “oxygen” to the Indian Air Force into which they will be inducted within two years, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said today.
He described as “great” India’s decision to buy these fighters after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande in Paris yesterday, saying it will go a long way in strengthening the IAF.
“Indian Air Force will get minimum oxygen (relief) it requires with this deal…In fact we have not purchased any major new generation aircraft in (last) 17 years.
“It’s a great decision taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on better terms and conditions. Procuring 36 planes for two squadrons is an extremely positive decision which was needed,” Parrikar told PTI here.
Modi had yesterday said in Paris that India will buy 36 Rafale fighter jets in “fly-away” condition from France at the earliest by “keeping in view the critical operational necessity of fighter aircraft in India.”
The Defence Minister said Rafale’s induction into the IAF may take two years “as ‘fly-away’ does not mean we will get them tomorrow”.
“It has to be designed as per India’s need,” he said, adding negotiations will be held over their pricing, which are currently valued at Rs 700 crore.
“The RFP (Request for Proposal) procedure for procuring these aircraft had been dragging on for several years. This was started in 2000 and still it was not getting completed because of a lot of confusion so I am very happy that the PM has taken the initiative,” Parrikar said.
He said the fighter jets will be inducted into IAF within a span of two years, adding the ice has been finally broken over the deal.
Parrikar did not give any reasons why it will take up to a maximum of two years for inducting these much-needed fighters into IAF.
Experts feel that time may be needed for further price negotiations and refitting the aircraft in tune with Indian requirements. While the government-to-government negotiations may have ended, the forces may have to fine-tune the deal with the manufacturer Dassault.
The fighter aircraft strength has fallen to 34 squadrons from the sanctioned 42 and will further dip with phasing out of MiG-21s and MiG-27s in the next few years.