Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today said India's decision to buy 36 French-made Rafale fighter jets off the shelf would infuse "minimum oxygen" into the Air Force, battling with an ageing warplane fleet. Describing the deal as "great", Mr Parrikar said that the planes would be inducted into the Air Force within a span of two years, according to the Press Trust of India.
|India announced on Friday that it will buy 36 ready-to-fly Rafale fighter jets.|
"It's a great decision taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on better terms and conditions. Procuring 36 planes for two squadrons is an extremely positive decision which was needed," Mr Parrikar told PTI.
"Indian Air Force will get minimum oxygen (relief) it required with this deal... In fact we have not purchased any major new generation aircraft in (last) 17 years," the minister said.
On Friday, PM Modi announced at a press conference in Paris that he had "asked President (Francois Hollande) to provide 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition." He said the terms and conditions of the contract have yet to be finalised and officials from both sides would work out the details.
Mr Parrikar said today that buying the planes in "fly away condition" did not mean that "we will get them tomorrow".
"It has to be designed as per India's need," he said, adding negotiations would be held over the pricing of the planes.
The original plan was for India to buy 18 off-the-shelf jets from France's Dassault Aviation, with 108 others being assembled in India by the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited or HAL in Bengaluru. Sources now say that if negotiations work out, India will buy 144 aircraft, 18 more than the original 126, ensuring that 108 jets will still be assembled at home.
For three years, the Rafale deal has been mired in extensive negotiations. Dassault has been reluctant to provide guarantees for the aircraft that are produced in India.
The Rafale was chosen in 2012 over rival offers from the United States, Europe and Russia. The original proposal for 126 fighter jets was worth at least 12 billion dollars.