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Rafale combat aircraft deal in final stages: Parrikar

Rafale fighter aircraft. Photo: Dassault Aviation

NEW DELHI (PTI): The multi-billion dollar deal for purchase of 36 Rafale combat aircraft is in "final stages" of price negotiations, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said.

A new roadmap for the upgradation of the inventory in the Indian Air Force is being prepared with focus on 'Make in India' initiative, and any future acquisition will be based on it, he told PTI.

The minister said that issues that came up in talks with the French on the Rafale fighter planes, like 50 per cent offset clause, have "almost been sorted out".

Refusing to put a timeline on when the final contract will be signed, Parrikar said, "It is in the final stages of price negotiations."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced in April this year during his visit to France that India will acquire 36 Rafale planes in fly-away condition under a government-to-government contract.

"As of now we are talking about 36 (planes). I am not saying that it means we are thinking of buying more. For our upgradation of the air force, we are preparing a roadmap. Once that roadmap is finalised and approved by the government, then we will go ahead as per the roadmap," he said when asked if India will be going in more Rafale aircraft.

Parrikar said that the roadmap will take into account the 'Make in India' initiative.

"One option is the Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas). In principle we have agreed to buy 20 LCAs in present form and another 100 with some improvements," he said.

On the offers made by global fighter jet plane makers to set up manufacturing bases in India, Parrikar said a decision would be taken as per the new policy.

The Defence Ministry is expected to come out with a new Defence Procurement Procedure soon that will be in tune with the government's initiative of 'Make in India'.

However, Parrikar made it clear that companies wanting to set up bases in the country will have to follow India's export control policy.

"Export also comes into play only once our order is finished. That will take 10-12 years. Even the best in the world can't make more than 16-20 per year unless they have multiple plants. Production for our own orders will take 8-10 years," he said.

From Swedish firm Saab to US' Lockheed Martin and France's Dassault Aviation, most of the global aircraft manufacturers have offered their planes in line with the government's push for 'Make in India'.

Indian Air Force had last month said it would need at least six squadrons comprising 108 Rafale or similar planes to shore up its capabilities.


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