The Indian Government signed a deal on Friday to purchase a fleet of 36 fighter jets from the French company Dassult. The fighter jets, dubbed Rafale, were reportedly purchased for a hefty price of $8.8 billion.
The deal was finally brokered between the two countries on Friday after nearly a decade long deliberation period. The initial talks about the purchase of the fleet began in 2007 but were significantly delayed due to a variety of reasons. This deal comes as a part of the country’s ambitious program to modernize its defense capabilities, especially the air force.
Sumit Ganguly, director of the India Studies Program at Indiana University shed some light on the deal and mentioned that the change in government in 2014 and bids by a variety of competitors were the significant factors behind the delay. Fighter jets from the Eurofighter Consortium, the Swedish Gripen, and United States were also being considered.
The new fleet of Rafale fighter jets will be welcomed with open arms by the country’s air force that has been requesting a defense overhaul for quite some time citing problems with the present ageing air force fleet of the Russian MIG 21s. The deal will also empower India to stay competitive with the neighbouring countries of China and Pakistan.
While the original plan of the government was to purchase 126 fighter jets, it was later scaled down due to high costs associated with their manufacturing and shipment.
The initial delivery of the Rafale fighter jets is expected to take place in 2019 with the rest of units to follow shortly within a six year period.
I feel this deal with certainly solidify India’s defense position globally and it will be interesting to see how China and Pakistan react in the coming months.
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