The Indian government has given its agreement in principle for the acquisition of 26 of the carrier-borne variant of Dassault Rafale fighter jets from France.
The announcement came a day before the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Paris as the guest of honor for France’s national holiday on July 14, 2023. It was approved during a meeting of India’s Defence Acquisition Council.
“The price and other terms of purchase will be negotiated with the French Government after taking into account all relevant aspects, including comparative procurement price of similar aircraft by other countries,” the Indian Ministry of Defense said in a statement.
The council also approved the acquisition of three additional Scorpene submarines from France.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the strategic partnership between the two countries, Modi is the guest of honor at the 2023 Bastille Day celebrations. As part of the traditional flypast, three Indian Rafale jets will grace the skies above the Champs-Élysées Avenue.
The Rafale and the F-18 Super Hornet in the running for the Indian Navy
The Indian Naval Air Arm is currently in pursuit of a replacement for its aging fleet of 40 MiG-29K aircraft. This initiative aims to equip the INS Vikrant, India’s maiden indigenous aircraft carrier, with a more modern and capable fighter fleet.
The French Rafale and the US-made F-18 Super Hornet underwent a rigorous evaluation process, which included a crucial requirement to demonstrate their ski-jump take-off capability. This technique, known as Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR), aligns with the operational procedures of the Indian Navy.
The INS Vikrant, India’s indigenous aircraft carrier commissioned in 2022, utilizes the STOBAR system for aircraft launch. In contrast, the French Navy and the US Navy employ a flat deck and a catapult launch (CATOBAR) system on their respective carriers.
According to undisclosed defense sources, the evaluation process concluded that the Rafale M exhibited a higher degree of compatibility with the operational requirements and criteria of the Indian Navy, surpassing its competitor.
With the Rafale M boasting more than 80% shared features with the Indian Air Force’s 36 Rafale B and C, this choice will allow India to save costs with training, repairs, and maintenance, stemming from the commonality between the fleets.