India in September 2016 signed an agreement with the French government to purchase 36 new Rafale fighter jets in a whopping 7.87 billion euro deal.
As a part of the contract, India would have received access to the latest weaponry like the Meteor and Scalp missiles in addition to the five-year support package that assures high availability of the fighter. The deal also sought a 15% advance from the Indian Government for the product deliveries to initiate within the first three years of signing the agreement.
What is Rafale?
Rafale is a double-engine medium multi-role combat aircraft, manufactured by the French Giant, Dassault Aviation. What Dassault asserts that Rafale is powered with ‘Omnirole’ capability that helps it to perform several activities simultaneously, that include launching air-to-air missiles at a decreased altitude, air-to-ground, and interceptions during the armed attacks
The aircraft consists of an onboard oxygen generation system (OBOGS) that eliminates the requirement for re-filling of liquid oxygen or ground support for oxygen production.
It can execute upto a large number of missions including Air-defence, Surveillance, close air support dynamic targeting, Air-to-ground precision strike or interdiction, anti-ship attacks, nuclear dissuasion, buddy-buddy refuelling.
With the Indian Government’s plan to revitalise its IAF fleet by incorporating Multi-Role Combat Aircraft, a considerable number of manufacturers from the Aviation industry has evinced interest in taking up the project.
In 2011, IAF organised technical and flight evaluations that published the result stating that Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon had successfully accomplished its criteria. Rafale was hailed L-1 bidder in 2012 and contract negotiations soon followed with its manufacturer, Dassault Aviation, in the same year. However, the negotiations lacked proper ending even after two years, in 2014, owing to the dearth of a suitable agreement on various terms of RFP compliance and cost-related matters. The situation became worsened under the supervision of the UPA Government.
Transfer of Technology and knowledge created a situation of apprehension between the two parties. Dassault Aviation didn’t show interest in taking the responsibility of quality control of the production of 108 aircraft in India. While Dassault supervised for 3 crore staff hours for aircraft production in India, HAL’s estimate became 3 times the recorded measure, thereby inflating the calculated expenses.
The Rafale deal was approximated at a worth that revolved around Rs 54,000 crore. NDA government has insisted on a significant better term than the one quoted in the original bid under UPA, with a total recorded savings of more than 1600 million Euros (350 million Euros on the cost of aircraft with a figure of reported savings on weapons, allied maintenance and training package quantifying to a value around 1300 million Euros or Rs 12,600 crores). However, the expense analysis of Rafale in the original bid under UPA and the 36 aircraft in the government-to-government deal provisioned by the NDA are not in the public domain.
Since on previous occasions, no agreement was drafted on the terms of Technology Transfer, the only thing that was on offer was the Licence Manufacturing technology. Under the recently commissioned agreement, the 36 Rafale procurement offset proposal is in alignment with the ‘Make In India’ initiative of the Indian Government through Article 12 of the IGA. It states that the French manufacturer will promote the exercise of ‘Make In India’ campaign by the industrial supplier notably through offsets for 50% value of the supply protocol.
In November 2017, Congress insisted on an allegation of a scam in the Rafale fighter jets deal. They stated that the contract violated the procurement formalities, and even charged the government with serious charges of promoting of capitalist accomplices at the cost of a defence public sector unit, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
Congress purported that the deal signed with France does not include technology transfer and has caused an ‘impassable’ loss to the treasury. The Rafale deal included a 50 per cent offset clause, a large part of which is to be executed by a joint venture company of the Anil Ambani owned Reliance Defence.
The weaponries are exclusively designed keeping in mind the requirements of Indian Air Force (IAF). India has managed to settle for the procurement of the advanced suites of weapons for the Rafale.
Some of the avant-garde weapons, that are available beyond the standard package are
Scalp: A precision long-range ground attack missile that can destroy targets with extreme accuracy. It has a range of 300 km, capped by the missile technology control regime.
Meteor: This revolutionary visual range air to air missile can eliminate an enemy aircraft at a range of over 100 km.