Indian Air Force may get 126 Rafale fighter planes - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 31 January 2012

Indian Air Force may get 126 Rafale fighter planes

While final negotiations between Dassault and the MoD are still to take place, it appears that the size of mega deal could be above Rs 75,000 crore

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 1st Feb 12

The Rafale fighter aircraft built by France’s Dassault Aviation has emerged the lowest bidder in the contest to sell the Indian Air Force (IAF) 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft. According to sources in the defence ministry, the Rafale has emerged marginally cheaper than its rival fighter, the Typhoon, fielded by a four-nation consortium, Eurofighter.

In reaching this conclusion, the IAF has calculated the Rafale would be cheaper than the Typhoon to buy, manufacture and fly over its entire four-decade service life. No prices have been made available, but MoD sources say the Rafale would cost some Rs 25 crore less than the Typhoon apiece.

The ministry did not respond to phone calls, an email and an SMS request for official confirmation.

However, Dassault sources confirm the ministry has informed the company that it has emerged the lowest bidder. Dassault remains unwilling to share details of its winning bid. A ministry committee, the Contract Negotiation Committee or CNC, will now engage with Dassault to hammer down the price before signing a contract.

The ministry had initially budgeted Rs 42,000 crore as the total cost of the 126-fighter contract. Ministry sources say India will, in fact, pay substantially more than that. The final deal size is subject to negotiations, and could go up to Rs 75,000 crore.

Dassault will be required to supply 18 “made-in-France” Rafales in three-four years. After that, manufacturing will progressively shift to Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Bangalore, which will build a new manufacturing line for the Rafale.

The Indian contract is a lifeline to the beleaguered French company, which has so far failed to sell a single Rafale fighter abroad.

The French air force and navy have cut down their initially projected requirement of 336 fighters; so far, they have ordered just 180 Rafales. In a TV interview last month, France’s Defence Minister, Gerard Longuet, declared the Rafale production line would shut down if no foreign orders were forthcoming.

India will be the foreign buyer that resuscitates that production line. Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya had declared its interest in buying Rafales, but was overtaken by history. Ironically, the Rafale flew sorties against Gaddafi’s militia during the Libyan civil war last year. Brazil was earlier on the verge of ordering 36 Rafales, but new Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff does not share the pro-Dassault enthusiasm of her predecessor Luiz Inacio de Silva.

The Rafale will eventually equip six squadrons of the IAF, each authorised 21 fighters. It is a delta-wing fighter with canards, which make it highly manoeuvrable and also allow it to land at speeds as low as 200 kmph. This makes it suitable for aircraft carrier operations, a key advantage over the Typhoon.

The fighter needs just 1,300-1,400 feet of runway to get airborne, an advantage in operating from air bases close to the border. Two Snecma M88 engines power the Rafale, allowing it to “supercruise” or fly at supersonic speeds without using afterburners. A key system is the Thales Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which is still under development. The Indian contract demands transfer of technology for the AESA radar.

The order of 126 Rafales caters only to the IAF’s requirement. The Indian Navy, too, has expressed interest in the Rafale (amongst several other fighters) for its aircraft carrier fleet. While the INS Vikramaditya (formerly, the Russian Gorshkov) will deploy MiG-29K fighters, the under-construction Indigenous Aircraft Carrier, with another vessel to follow, will also require carrier-borne fighters. A naval version of the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is close to flying. However, there is likely to be an additional requirement for heavy fighters like the Rafale for the naval fleet. Experts have forecast India would eventually acquire about 200 medium multi-role combat aircraft.

The IAF evaluated six fighters for this massive contract -- Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet; Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN Super Viper; the Russian MiG-35; the Swedish Gripen NG; the Rafale and the Typhoon. After flight trials in 2010 and early 2011, the Rafale and the Typhoon were shortlisted in April 2011. Commercial bids from Dassault Aviation and Eurofighter GmbH were opened in November 2011. The IAF’s evaluation and selection processes have won widespread acclaim from aviation watchers worldwide.


  1. "After that, manufacturing will progressively shift to Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Bangalore, which will build a new manufacturing line for the Eurofighter."

    Oops, Freudian slip regarding the Eurofighter, unless you know something we don't.

  2. "Dassault will be required to supply 18 “made-in-France” Rafales in three-four years. After that, manufacturing will progressively shift to Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Bangalore, which will build a new manufacturing line for the Eurofighter."

    A typo there, you meant Rafale, ofcourse.

    Perfect choice by the GOI. Simply, the Rafale fits in neatly between the Tejas and The Sukhoi MKI. Not to mention, the maintenance advantage, help with Kaveri, AES ToT, independent parts provider not beholden to any superpower and also potentially aiding (indirectly) in the development of India's indigenous next-gen fighter.

  3. "Dassault will be required to supply 18 “made-in-France” Rafales in three-four years. After that, manufacturing will progressively shift to Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Bangalore, which will build a new manufacturing line for the Eurofighter."

    should there be "Rafale" instead of "eurofighter"

  4. Why would HAL need to build a assembly line for Euro fighter, when the winner is Rafale.

  5. A Good choice between the two. Dassault would be willing to share deeper ToT than the rest of the Europe would had. But a operational squadron by 2017 of just a 4.5 Gen fighter?

  6. "Dassault will be .....Bangalore, which will build a new manufacturing line for the -- Eurofighter." is that intentional typo?

  7. Hello Broadsword,

    So Rafale it is. Sorry, but F-35 will get its day in the future. What is your analysis on this aircraft (Rafale) apart from price off course. From my uneducated analysis I see that the plane is little underpowered, 85KN of military thrust is a little less when you see f-16 at 130+ Kn. The GE414 version has 122 KN military thrust, its highest version. Does this short-coming have any repercussions on the role it is going to play in the IAF from your analysis?


  8. Shukla sir, In your opinion is it a good buy, especilly since the deal would work out close to 18~20 billions instead of 10 and as India would be the only customer or Rafeal besides France.

    Wouldnt it have been better to get SU35 or mix of F35 and Gripen.

    What are French plans for Gen they have any upgrades planned to make Rafeal a competition to Gen 5 fighter down the line

  9. No Freudian slip, no conspiracy, just a typo. Have corrected it to "a new manufacturing line for the Rafale"

    What conspiracy theorists!!

  10. Another plane for our pilots to crash. Forgive the pessimism but this tamasha of wasting billions of dollars into a plane that no one else wants is just too harsh

  11. @Ajai sir

    As Rafale wins the deal, there are a few points I want to make

    1. As known the deal for 126 jets will touch US$20 billion but using option for 63 more (sometime in 2022)will cost another US$12 billion atleast based on rate of inflation and cost escalation. This not including those jets (possibly 42 more)needed by IN, will push totoal Rafale deal close to US$35-38 billion, so I doubt the country shell out so much considering that we are investing in FGFA ($20 billion), AMCA ($10 billion)

    2. We are putting or will put many of our eggs in French basket Mirage 2000 upgrade, Rafale, Scorpene SSK, Super Scorpene SSK, Baracude SSN. Hope to get some concession in prices.

    3. Still feel France help India get its hands on UAE Mirages (68) that they are selling back to them.

    Reason for buying these relatively new jets is simple that we will be short in numbers. Despite inducting 126+63 MMRCA, 140 LCA, 300 FGFA, and 200 AMCA by the year 2035 with retirement of Migs (21,27,29), Jaguars after 2025 we wont be able to take our squadron nos close to 40 or even 45 as said by ACM that India needs to effectively secure itself.

    As India signed Mirage upgrade deal, apart from structural (France can do it, with so many deals going there way) we can make requisite changes on them.

    4. The deal should be signed quickly to allow first 18 to touch down in India by late 2014 .


    Joydeep Ghosh

  12. Why I think Rafale isn’t a great deal for India –

    - It’s way too expensive, especially given what it is! EUR 80 million per aircraft for something which is decidedly fourth generation plus some advancements added later. It’s not even a borderline 5th generation aircraft which Typhoon is. It doesn’t have the stealthy features which Typhoon does, neither does it have the capability of absorbing thrust-vector controls (which Sukhois already have and which Typhoon is supposed to get). So if you’re going to buy a super expensive aircraft, may as well get you one which gives you the latest tech and scope to improve in the future. The difference was USD 5 million per aircraft apparently, so that’s just stupid, given that Typhoon would have been a better long term bet.

    - Rafale ties us to the French (and their sluggish economy) much more than the Typhoon would have. It’s a German-Brit-Italian collaboration, with the German company being partly held by France as well. This would have given us brownie points across Europe, rather than tying us to one particular government. Admittedly the French have been good allies in the past, but now its all about money. They will sell everything to the Chinese and Pakis as well.

    - The French have in the last couple of years developed a strategy of selling us the basic gear cheap and then charging a bomb for the spare parts, important components and accessories. With the Scorpene deal, they have royally done us over by bidding really low for everything except the one component that we really needed (Air Independent Propulsion system, in case you were wondering). They are now charging us almost as much as the original amount for this kit and that’s what’s led to the delay of the Scorpenes rolling out. So am not sure if they are as great a supplier as, say the US, who gives all-in prices when bidding.

    - Our main threat, for which we are buying this aircraft, is China. Any battle with China will be fought at high altitudes and in very likely snowy conditions. Typhoon is hardened to this condition, since its meant for northern European winters. Rafale while not bad, is not as good on these counts. The only major advantage that Rafale gives us technologically is that the French are transferring to us all the confidential specs and software codes, but given how marvelously we squander these specs (we have the specs and license for Bofors/ HDW subs), and haven’t done a thing about these domestically), not sure whether this adds anything to the bid.

    - Only one other air force in the world will be flying it, so we will be wholly reliant on France not just for the aircrafts, but for spare parts and upgrades. Even the French Air Force is winding down on orders, so no certainty that we will continue to get the parts and upgrades in the future.

    - The French are known to offer “incentive” payments to the powers-that-be. I’m sure the ruling dynasty has made a packet of the deal, so it will undoubtedly go to France.

  13. Col. Shukla-
    At some point soon, would you please consider analysing the Rafale deal on its merits alone?

    For example the level of TOT for the a/c and the soon-to-come AESA radar, engine design technologies, additional benefits like help with the nuclear submarines etc.?

  14. Tell me how is the acquisition process "great" when it takes 5 years....And in those 5 years we have come close to war ....

  15. Broadsword Broadsword What you gonna do, what you gonna do as the Rafale is choosed!


  16. Now Indians should be ready with appropriate sponge to absorb the TOT arising out of the Rafale deal.

  17. I saw your discussion on ndtv about rafale win.

    what the hell are you saying about f-35 & 4.5, 5gen?.

    Surprised being a defence reporter you are not cared of sanctions, ToT, troublesome CISMOA clauses, spare parts availability in time of a conflict, adaptability to indian scenario..

    india requires a fighter that adapts to our needs & strategy. IAF conducted extensive training on 6oo some parameters and chose rafale that suits them better than the bulky F-35!. How do you know F-35 is adaptable to indian conditions & strategy??..

    About your 5th gen q, dont you know that we are already buying 250 FGFA from Russia and are working on AMCA. FGFA will come in 2017 or 2020. Till then we dont need any 5th gen. Also can we afford the cost,infrastructure in india, maintenance costs of F-35?.
    US too can't afford JSF cost, then how can we?.

    Without knowing such vital things how can you say india need only F-35..!.

    Please reply..

  18. The discussion on NDTV-As the Airmarshal pointed out that the scope of upgrades in the Rafale as well as the Typhoon is tremendous over a timeperiod of 30 years. secondly with PAKFA ready to be inducted in and around 2018 do we really need the F-35 which will come with lots of clauses and binding agreements. With a steady depletion in fighter squadrons the IAF urgently needs a fighter to plug the gap. Minus Stealth and internal weapons storage the Rafale will have everything which a multirole fighter should possess if its is upgraded over the decades.The Su-50 will come around the same time or even earlier than the Chinese J-20. As of now the PLA's AF has nothing extraordinary which take on the Rafales or the Typhoons expect for the SU-30s which are considered inferior to the Indian MKI versions.

  19. Read an answer to the reasonable question. Why did the russian fighter MiG-35 lose the Indian tender of MMRCA?
    Material is to address:


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