In another attempt to sell its Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) to India, France is expected to offer 2 additional squadrons of Rafale jet during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's upcoming visit to the European country for the G-7 Summit. Financial daily, the Economic Times reported that the French side is all set to offer 36 more Rafale immediately to Indian Air Force, which is badly struggling to keep up with a number of squadrons, to fight a two-front war.
During his visit, PM Modi is scheduled to meet French President Emmanuel Macron where two leaders are expected to discuss a series of issues. However, key issues like defence and maritime cooperation are likely to dominate the discussion.
Sources confirmed that the in comparison to 2016 deal where 36 Rafale jets were signed for €7.87 billion, the latest offer for the same number of aircraft would cost considerably lesser as India has already made payments for fixed costs covering India-specific enhancements, training equipment, and infrastructure. IAF officials added the airbases identified for stationing these two squadrons are capable without any further change.
For the latest offer, France is likely to put up a quotation of €6 billion. As per the industry sources, France is even ready to operate on a tight delivery schedule which would mean that one Rafale would be manufactured every month for next years to meet the deadline. France is scheduled to deliver the first Rafale to IAF in September for which defence minister Rajnath Singh expected to travel to France for a formal handing over ceremony.
The 2016 deal between two countries meant that Dassault will be delivering 36 Rafale jets to IAF in the coming 3 years. The Jets will be loaded with advanced weaponry including the long-range Meteor air-to-air missile. With the induction of Rafale, the IAF is expected to maintain its supremacy in the region.
The IAF requires at least 42 air squadrons to face a two-front war but the strength these squadrons are depleting quickly. At current levels, the IAF is operating with only 33 squadrons. With Soviet-era MiG-21 fighter aircrafts getting too old to be continued in service and slow manufacturing of indigenous Tejas aircraft, the IAF is in a desperate situation to maintain its fleet. Further, India planned to buy 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) fighters from France but finally, only 36 fighters were ordered.