The IAF is now pitching for acquiring another 36 Rafale fighters after it gets the first 36 jets under the Rs 59,000-crore contract ($9.3 billion) inked with France last September, stressing that the “follow-on” deal will cost just around 60% of the original acquisition and induction price.
Defence ministry sources on Thursday said IAF has made “some presentations” on the operational need to procure 36 additional Rafales as part of its long-term plans, with the force contending the French fighters will prove to be much cheaper than the proposed fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) to be developed with Russia. “But no final decision has been taken on either the 36 additional Rafales or the FGFA project,” said an MoD source.
The Modi government had inked the deal for the 36 Rafales, with their weapon packages, associated supplies and logistics, after scrapping the deadlocked $20 billion MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project for 126 fighters due to IAF’s “critical operational necessity”.
As earlier reported by TOI, the first Rafale squadron (18 jets) will be based at Hasimara (West Bengal) to cater for China, while the second will come up at Ambala (Haryana) for Pakistan. The 36 omnirole jets, which can also deliver nuclear weapons, are slated for delivery from November 2019 to mid-2022.
The IAF has told the MoD the infrastructure coming up at Hasimara and Ambala airbases can accommodate two Rafale squadrons each. “This will cut down the induction costs of the 36 additional fighters,” said the source. Grappling with just 33-34 fighter squadrons when at least 42-44 are needed to tackle the “collusive threat” from China and Pakistan, IAF says the Rafales will be “a huge deterrent” with their deadly Meteor air-to-air missiles (150km range), Scalp air-toground cruise missiles (300km) and other weapons.
By: Press Reader
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