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Rafale deal: French Def Min likely to meet Parrikar next week

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French Rafale fighter jets

NEW DELHI (PTI): French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is likely to arrive here next week to hold talks with his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar to carry forward the over USD 6 billion deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets.

Defence Ministry sources said Drian will hold talks with Parrikar on Monday over the plan to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly-away condition as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his recent visit to France.

"He is coming down to firm up the modalities as India wants the fighter aircraft as soon as possible," the sources said.

French sources, however, said a date is yet to be fixed and it has been announced by French President Francois Hollande that Drian will accompany him to Qatar on May 4.

"The French are trying to fix a date after that," the sources said. Qatar on Thursday announced its decision to acquire 24 Rafale fighter jets.

The deal with India is also likely to have a 30 per cent offset clause valuing to nearly USD 2 billion that the Indian private industry will be eyeing.

The defence sources have pegged the deal at over USD 6 billion including the cost of the 36 aircraft, armament and spares.

Modi and French President Hollande had on April 11 agreed to conclude an Inter-Governmental Agreement for supply of the aircraft on terms that would be better than conveyed by Dassault Aviation for the 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender.

The delivery would be in time-frame that would be compatible with the operational requirement of IAF, and the aircraft and associated systems and weapons would be delivered on the same configuration as had been tested and approved by IAF, and with a longer maintenance responsibility by France, a joint statement had said.

Parrikar had said all future negotiations for purchase of French Rafale fighters would be through government to government route. He said further negotiation will decide if India goes in for more Rafale jets and if so, the number of it.

Under the original deal, 18 Rafale jets were to be bought off the shelf while 108 were to be manufactured by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

The talks have been stuck over pricing and Dassault's refusal to stand guarantee for the jets to be manufactured by HAL.

While initially the MMRCA contract was valued at about USD 10 billion, it has now gone up to over USD 20 billion.

The Request for Information for a Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft was issued in 2001 and a Request for Proposal was issued in 2007. Rafale was shortlisted in 2012.

Though the 36 Rafale jets would be a shot in the arms for the IAF, it will not be enough for the dwindling air power of the force.

Even though the sanctioned strength of the IAF is 42 Squadrons, it is currently equipped with only 35.

Adding to the trouble is the phasing out of the ageing MiG 21s and MiG 27s in the coming years. Their draw-down is scheduled to start in 2017 but sources indicated that it might be extended for another few years.

The IAF has been banking on the Rafale, the indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft 'Tejas' and the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft deal with Russia, but all the projects are running behind schedule.

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Rafale  France  Defence  Parrikar  
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