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The Indian Air Force pushes for additional 36 Rafale fighters
December 16, 2018
Two Egyptian Air Force Rafale fighters. Photo credit: Dassault Aviation

The Indian Air Force pushes for additional 36 Rafale fighters

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is eager to acquire an additional 36 Dassault Rafale multi-role fighters to join its 36 fighters already on order (from the $8.8 billion U.S. deal signed in September 2016).

The Times of India reports, citing Ministry of Defence (MoD) sources, that a follow-on Rafale order would cost 60% of the initial package’s value, which also includes weapon systems, India-specific customizations and a five-year support package guaranteeing an operational rate of 75%.

Although the notion of the IAF scaling the Rafale’s logistics and maintenance infrastructure for additional fighters was always plausible, the Times of India reported that the IAF presented additional Rafales as an alternative to the Sukhoi Su-57-based Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA).

In the beginning of August, an MoD panel had recommended that India engage with Russia in the FGFA. The FGFA has seen some consternation in India on account of the program’s potential cost, especially with the IAF still requiring specific additions (such as an active electronically-scanned array radar).

The IAF plans to station its forthcoming Rafales to Hasimara and Ambala for positioning against China and Pakistan, respectively. If New Delhi approves subsequent Rafale batches, the IAF will augment its fleets in those air bases as each one is capable of supporting two Rafale squadrons each.

The IAF is also interested in acquiring a new single-engine fighter to join the Tejas in replacing the IAF’s legacy MiG-21 and MiG-27 jets. Currently, the Saab JAS-39E/F and Lockheed Martin F-16 Block-70 are the apparent frontrunners.

Notes & Comments:

The prospect of the IAF pursuing additional Rafales was to be expected. Ultimately, the fighter had been selected under the ill-fated Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) program, which had envisaged the induction of 126 fighters. The Rafale was selected to fulfill that objective, though subsequent issues regarding cost had required New Delhi to eschew the MMRCA bid and pursue 36 fighters off-the-shelf.

For its part, Dassault hopes to sell as many 200 Rafales to India over the next decade (Hindustan Times). Dassault CEO Eric Trappier had hinted that subsequent orders could lead to the transfer-of-technology to enable India to take on a substantive share of the fighter’s sourcing. Besides expanding upon IAF orders, Dassault is also looking at the Indian Navy’s bid for 57 carrier-borne fighters as an avenue for additional Rafale orders in the country.