It's been a long time coming but France has finally sealed a contract with India for 36 Rafale combat aircraft (28 single-seat and 8 two-seat versions). The contract - estimated to be worth almost €8bn - was signed in New Delhi on 23rd September by the defence ministers of the two countries, Jean-Yves Le Drian and Manohar Parrikar. Le Drian was accompanied by the CEOs of Dassault Aviation, Thales, Safran and MBDA.
The signing marks the end of a saga that began in early 2012, when the Rafale emerged as the preferred choice for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition. The requirement at that stage was for 126 aircraft, most of which were to be produced in India. The MMRCA programme was subsequently abandoned, but prime minister Narendra Modi announced in April 2015 that India would buy 36 Rafales off the shelf.
For Dassault, the deal represents the third - and largest - export sale for the Rafale, following recent successes in Egypt and Qatar, each of which have purchased 24 aircraft. First deliveries are scheduled for 2019. The contract reportedly includes MBDA's Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles and Scalp cruise missiles.
The Rafale now hopes to conclude further export sales in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates.
India's decision to buy the Rafale is the latest in a long history of French aircraft acquisitions by New Delhi that started with the Ouragan in 1953 and subsequently included the Mystère IV, Jaguar and Mirage 2000. The Indian Air Force urgently needs new combat aircraft to counter threats of aggression from Pakistan and China.
The Rafale buy is the latest in a series of defence deals signed by New Delhi as it seeks to upgrade its military capabilities. The country has spent $12bn in the past few years on U.S. hardware - P-8 maritime patrol aircraft, C-17 strategic transports, along with Chinook and Apache helicopters.