An ambiguous situation has startled the country since past few years when the two leading parties of the nation has entered into an unending discussion over the purchase of technologically advanced fighter jets. These aircrafts play an important role for Indian Air Force as a range of combat aircraft will be retired progressively over the next 20 years. Now the question that arises is what exactly is Dassault Rafale and why this deal has raised so much into discussion lately? To understand the whole situation, we have listed all the appropriate points that will explain it briefly.
What is Rafale Jet?
Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine, canard-delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Rafale fighter jets are positioned as ‘omni-role’ aircraft that are capable of performing a wide range of combat roles, such as air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence.
How did it start?
It all started in 2001 during NDA government ruling under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The idea was initiated when IAF sought additional fighter jets in order to replace existing MiG-2000. The Indian Air Force (IAF) currently has a combat strength of 34 squadrons, of which only 31 are effectively combat ready. The current fleet of IAF consists of only heavy and lightweight aircraft, so Defence ministry considered in bring medium weight aircraft.
A number of international aviation manufacturers showed interest when they came to know about the mammoth plan of Indian government by introducing MMRCA. The initial bidders were Lockheed Martin’s F-16s, Boeing’s F/A-18s, Eurofighter Typhoon, Russia’s MiG-35, Sweden’s Saab’s Gripen and Dassault’s Rafale of which Rafale and Eurofighter were the only ones shortlisted by IAF after a thorough analysis and testing by IAF. Dassault aviation bagged the contract as they were the lowest bidders and aircraft maintenance was low as compared to others.
The procurement began in 2007 when the Defence Acquisition Council headed by Mr. A.K. Antony, approved the Request For Proposal to buy 126 aircraft in August 2007. This kick-started the bidding process.
What did it cost and when was the delivery?
Initially, the deal was estimated to cost 10.2 billion (Rs 54,000 crores). The plan included acquiring 126 aircraft, 18 of them in fly-away condition and the rest to be made in India at the Hindustan Aeronautics facility under transfer of technology. However, after they won the contract in 2001, India and Dassault started the negotiations in 2012. The negotiations have stretched on for almost four years.
As reported by The Quint, the major reason behind the delay was:
Lack of consensus on “transfer of technology”
The French jet maker’s unwillingness to take responsibility for the quality control of the production of 108 aircraft by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in India.
Lack of agreement on the man hours for the production of aircraft in India – Dassault provided for three crore man hours while HAL’s estimate was nearly three times higher, escalating costs.
The final price itself. Reports from 2011 state that the price quoted by Dassault per aircraft was 740 crore, while India wanted them at 20% cheaper.
Finally, elections and change in government, both in France and India put the deal for which after nearly a 15 yearly long wait, was in its final storage, in a cold storage.
How much price is involved?
The true costing of a Rafale jet to India is still unknown as it has not been officially confirmed by any government, be it UPA or NDA. However, as reported by Ajai Shukla on November 2017 “senior political leader in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) held an off-the-record briefing in New Delhi for several journalists”. The average cost of 28 single-seat fighters and eight twin-seat fighters, Euro 91.7 million (Rs 686 crore) – totaling up to Euro 3.3 billion. Along with this, IAF is paying 1.7 billion for “India-specific enhancements”, that includes weaponry like Meteor and SCALP missiles, spare parts and engines and “performance-based logistics”, to ensure that at least 75 percent of the Rafale fleet remains operationally available.
The enhancements also include a “radar warning receiver” to detect enemy radar and “low band jammers” to foil it; a radio altimeter, Doppler radar, extreme cold weather starting-up devices for airfields like Leh, and “helmet mounted display sights” that let pilots aim their weapons merely by looking at a target.
Adding the Euro 1.7 billion for “India specific enhancements”, the payment made for the aircraft goes up to Euro 5 billion, averaging out to Euro 138.9 million (Rs 1,063 crore) per Rafale fighter.
Why the secrecy?
On March 28, Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre told parliament: “An Agreement between India and France regarding the Exchange and Reciprocal Protection of Classified or Protected Information was signed on 10th March 2018 during the State Visit (sic) of President of France to India. This agreement defines the common security regulations applicable to any exchange of classified and protected information between the two countries.”
Further, as The Wire reported, Macron himself is ambiguous about what France wants to be kept confidential. In an interview to India Today TV on March 9, Macron said: “There are some discussions to be organized by the Indian government, and they will have to consider which details they would want to be revealed to the Opposition and Parliament. I am not one to interfere in such a discussion and you too must realize that we have to consider commercial sensitivities.”
Subhash Bhamre, Minister of Defence revealed in Parliament that the cost of each jet is to be approximately Rs 670 crore.
Congress claims that Modi government is costing the country a fighter jet that’s 300 percent more expensive than what they have negotiated. In response to which Modi government consistently maintained a secrecy. Even though the present government claims that the deal has been finalized at a better price and they have saved 59 crores on each jet, they have not any document official to support the fact. This makes the situation unclear as in which government made a better deal in absence of any official fact.
Source – The Quint, The Hindu, FirstPost, Ajai Shukla, IDSA