Ten years after the initial request for tender, the Indian Minister of Defense, Shri Rajnath Singh, received the first of 36 Rafale fighter jets ordered from Dassault Aviation and destined to equip the Indian Air Force.
The delivery of the Rafale RB001 took place during a ceremony held in Dassault Aviation Mérignac facility on October 8, 2019, on India’s Air Force Day.
“We stand alongside the Indian Air Force since 1953, reminded Dassault CEO Eric Trappier, adding “we are totally committed to fulfill its requirements for the decades to come and to be part of India’s ambitious vision for the future”. Dassault Aviation has supplied the IAF five times, from the Dassault Ouragan (renamed Toofani) in 1953 to the Mirage 2000 (Vajra) in 1985.
“The relationship between Dassault and India dates back to 1953. This event once again highlights the unique and strong strategic relationship between our two countries and between Dassault and the IAF. No doubt that this first Rafale marks the beginning of a new long history” pic.twitter.com/qcpL5YfJXx
— Dassault Aviation (@Dassault_OnAir) October 8, 2019
It marks the end of a decade of laborious negotiations between France and India. The tender to renew the Indian Air Force (IAF) fleet was started in 2009. The Rafale was selected in 2012, over its American and European counterparts. The initial order potentially included 126 aircraft. However, after years of indecision on an industrial partnership between Dassault and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the contract was put back on the table of negotiations once again.
On September 23, 2016, French President François Hollande and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached an agreement for the sale of 36 Rafale aircraft for an amount of €8 billion. This time, Dassault Aviation would manufacture the aircraft.
The IAF Rafale fighter jets should be stationed on Ambala Air Force Station, near Kashmir and the Pakistan border, and Hasimara Air Force Station, in West Bengal.
Another order on the way?
Discussions resumed in July 2018 between France and India and Dassault Aviation, this time for an order of 110 Rafales. The Indian Navy, in need of 57 combat aircraft, could also choose the Rafale Marine (carrier version). The governments of both countries and their respective manufacturers have yet to successfully outline an industrial plan, as the fighter jets will have to be assembled in India this time.
But the allegations of corruption regarding this contract, that have targeted Prime Minister Modi during the latest electoral campaign, could resurface.