Xinhua feature: India signed an arms contract on September 23 with France, for the purchase 36 Rafale fighters worth 7.9 billion euros (about 8.8 billion US dollars). French media says this arms contract can be called as the “biggest order of the century” for military supplies between France and India.
Reuters reported that French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian signed this defence sales contract with his Indian counterpart, Manohar Parrikar, in the Indian capital New Delhi, on September 23.
Under the agreement, the first batch of Rafale fighters will be handed over to India before 2019, and all the 36 aircrafts have to be delivered within six years.
Rafale is manufactured by the French aviation company Dassault, and is a French new generation multi-role fighter, capable of performing tasks like air combat and strikes on ground or sea targets. It is known as the world’s most efficient, most sophisticated and most expensive multi-purpose fighter.
In fact, as early as in 2012, India expressed the intention to purchase 126 Dassault Rafale fighters. But, the negotiations failed due to differences between the two sides over aspects like price, production and transfer of technology.
After Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office in 2014, both the countries restarted several rounds of bilateral inter-governmental negotiations. India drafted the new procurement contract, and the original order was shrunk to 36 aircrafts.
Indian defense analyst Nitin Gokhale told Reuters that in his view, the price tag of $ 8.8 billion for this order was “fair”. In fact, the initial contract price of 36 Rafale fighters was 12 billion euros (about 13.4 billion US dollars), and finally it was negotiated down to the current price.
A number of foreign media reported that this is India’s biggest military procurement deal in many decades. Mr. Parrikar said on his Twitter account on 23rd that this order “can significantly improve India’s strike and defense capabilities.”
AFP reported that the Indian Air Force currently has about 32 fighter squadrons, with each squadron having 18 fighters. Once all the 36 Rafale fighters are delivered, the number of Indian Air Force fighter squadrons will increase by two.
According to Reuters, this defence sales contract is the largest order for Rafales till date.