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Tue 21st of November 2017

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India and France sign Rafale fighter jet deal

After several twists and turns, the Indian Air Force is reportedly set to get its share of the French Rafale aircraft. Rafales aretwin-engine Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by Dassault Aviation, a French firm.

Rafale fighter jets are positioned as ‘omnirole’ aircrafts that capable to perform a wide-range of combat roles such as air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence.

Rafale is a multi-role fighter aircraft capable of undertaking all types of missions with a capability to simultaneously perform both air defence and ground attack role in a single mission. Sources said that Rafale would be able to do five missions per day as compared to three for other aircraft because of high turnaround time. For example, the engine of the Rafale can be replaced in 30 minutes as compared to 8 hours for the Su30.

The features that make the Rafale a strategic weapon in the hands of IAF include its Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Meteor air-to-air missile with a range in excess of 150 km.

Its integration on the Rafale jets will mean IAF can hit targets inside both Pakistan and across the northern and eastern borders while staying within India's territorial boundary.

Pakistan at present has only a BVR with 80 km range.

During the Kargil war, India had used a BVR of 50 km range while Pakistan had none. However, Pakistan later acquired 80-km-range BVR, but now with 'Meteor', the balance of power in the air space has again tilted in India's favour. 'Scalp', a long-range air-to-ground cruise missile with a range in excess of 300 km, also gives IAF an edge over its adversaries. Both missiles have a 2 metres precision which means that a target can be hit with high precision. Defence Ministry sources said the Rafale, which has a range of 780 to 1055 km, depending on mission role, as compared to 400-450 of the Su30, will be better than what even the French uses as it will have numerous India specific additions.

The India specific modifications would also include Israeli helmet mounted displays, ability to start at cold bases like Leh, better radar, better detection and survival features among others.  

Why has India opted for Rafale

•Rafale was not India’s only choice. Several international aviation manufacturers expressed interest upon knowing the Indian government’s mammoth plan to revamp its Indian Airforce fleet by introducing MMRCAs. Six renowned aircraft manufacturers competed to bag the contract of 126 fighter jets, which was touted to be the largest-ever defence procurement deal of India.

Initial bidders were:

•Lockheed Martin’s F-16s, Boeing’s F/A-18s, Eurofighter Typhoon, Russia’s Mikoyan MiG-35, Sweden’s Saab’s Gripen and the Dassault’s Rafale from France.

•All aircrafts were tested by the IAF and after careful analysis on the bids, two of them — Eurofighter and Rafale — were shortlisted. Dassault bagged the contract to provide 126 fighter jets, as it was the lowest bidder and the aircraft were said to be easy to maintain.

When did the actual procurement process

•Indian Air Force sought additional fighter jets in 2001. The current IAF fleet largely consists of heavy and light-weight combat aircraft. So the Defence Ministry considered bringing in intermediate medium-weight fighter jets. Though the idea has been around since 2001, the actual process began in 2007. The Defence Acquisition Council, headed by the then Defence Minister A.K. Antony, approved the Request For Proposal to buy 126 aircrafts in August 2007. This kick-started the bidding process.

How many Rafales are we buying and what’s the cost involved

•The deal was initially estimated to be worth $10.2 billion (Rs.54,000 crore). 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.

So Rafale won the contract. And India is buying 126 jets. That’s it?

•No, it’s trickier than that. After Rafale won the contract, the Indian side and Dassault started negotiations in 2012. While it is usual for such negotiations to stretch to several months, the Rafale negotiations has been on for almost four years now. The agreement was signed only in January this year.

Why this delay

•Both India and France witnessed national elections and a change in government while the negotiations were under way. Pricing was another factor. Even during the signing of the purchase agreement, both the sides couldn’t reach a conclusion on the financial aspects. According to sources, the price of an aircraft it about Rs.740 crores and India wants them for at least 20 per cent lesser cost. Though the initial plan was to buy 126 jets, India scaled it down to 36, that too in ready condition.

How important is this deal to both India and France

•France: Rafale jets are currently being used only by France. Dassault is hoping that export of Rafale jets will help the company meet its revenue targets. India was the first country that agreed to buy Rafale, after it was used in Libyan airstrikes. If India inducts these jets in its military fold, other nations could express its willingness to buy Rafales.

•India: India chose Dassault over its traditional partner Russia’s Mig. It also ignored U.S.’ Lockheed, at a time when India and U.S. were aiming for closer ties. Procurement of combat aircraft is long overdue for the Indian Air Force. Further delay can only make things worse. This deal is India’s biggest-ever procurement. In the effectiveness of the Rafale deal lies the future of other defence procurements.

 

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Prelims Question of the Day

With reference to 'Natural Rate of Unemployment', consider the following statements.

1. It is the level of unemployment in an economy that is just consistent with a stable rate of Inflation.

2. It is the unemployment that prevails when all markets in the economy are in equilibrium.

 

(a)1 and 2

(b)2 only

(c)1 only

(d)None of the above

Mains Question of the Day

1.GS-No party in power can afford to ignore Directive Principles of State Policy. Comment.(200 Words)

2.Political Science - Explain the role of non state actors, like IMF, World Bank, European Union and MNCs, in modulating and transforming the broad dynamics of international relations. (250 Words).

3.SOCIOLOGY - What is the impact of Globalization on the structure and mobilization of the working class in India? (250 Words).

Sociology - Thinkers