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IAF to acquire 36 more Rafale Fighter Jets from France

France is set to deliver more fighter jets to India as IAF faces shortage in Aircrafts. The controversial deal is still labelled as India’s biggest corruption scandal.

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France has made a deal with the Indian Air Force (IAF) to deliver a total of 35 Omni-role Rafale fighter jets by the end of 2021. 26 fighters have already been delivered with 24 landing in India and the remaining two kept for IAF pilot and technician training in France.

On June 28, Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, formally inducted Rafale aircraft into No. 101 Sqn at AFS Hasimara in Eastern Air Command.

IAF has been showing keen interest in Rafale platform due to its weight to power ratio and maritime strike capabilities. IAF is also reported to be facing an acute shortage of aircraft, as most of the in-service fighters are slated to be retired soon. The IAF’s operational capabilities have declined drastically over the past two decades.

The existing MiG-21 have been prone to accidents; 482 out of 872 MiG-21s procured crashed between 1971 and April 2012 — a loss of 12 jets each year. It is believed that after repeated upgrades, the MiG-21s, MiG-23, and MiG-27 will be phased out from 2022 onwards.

What is a Rafale Fighter Jet?

The Rafale is a twin-jet fighter aircraft able to operate from both an aircraft carrier and a shore base. The versatile Rafale is able to carry out all combat aviation missions including air superiority and air defense, close air support, in-depth strikes, reconnaissance, anti-ship strikes and nuclear deterrence.

With more than 30,000 flight hours in operations, it has proven its worth in combat in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq and Syria.

Read more: JF-17 vs Rafale: Why Pakistan’s JF-17 is a Serious Threat to Indian Rafale Jets?

The warplane is equipped with a twin-gun pod and 30mm cannon, which can fire up to 2,500 rounds per minute. It also has laser designation pods for laser guidance of air-to-ground missiles.

The French fighter is powered by two M88-2 engines suitable for both low-altitude penetration and high-altitude interception missions.

What is the deal made by India?

The company Dassault Aviation, which is an international French aircraft manufacturer of military and business jets, was chosen as the winner of India’s Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition 2012. After the win, India’s United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was led by the Congress party to negotiate a deal with the French company to supply 126 aircraft to the Indian military.

However, negotiations between the UPA and Dassault were hampered over disagreements since India wanted 108 of the planes to be produced in India by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Read more: India hails Rafale jets but defense experts wonder if ‘handful of planes’ will burden China

Dassault had concerns over technology transfer to the Indian aerospace company, along with doubts over HAL’s capacity to produce the complex aircraft.

In 2015, Modi surprisingly made a new deal worth €7.8 billion. After a meeting in April 2015 between Modi and then French President Francois Hollande, it was announced that 36 Rafale jets would be delivered from France to India in flying condition. The MMRCA tender for the 126 jets was scrapped in July 2015.

Why is the deal controversial?

However, soon after the finalization of the deal, Modi’s government faced severe criticism as the opposition parties labelled the jet purchase as India’s “biggest ever” corruption scandal.

Congress alleged that the BJP government was paying a lot more for the jets than what UPA government had negotiated and that BJP was favoring private business over public enterprise. These accusations were pointing on Reliance Aerospace, a conglomerate headed by Anil Ambani, a businessman with close ties to Modi.

Critics commented that the favoritism was evident as Reliance had no prior experience in aeronautics and still easily replaced HAL as the Indian partner in the deal. The company had been registered just 12 days before Modi announced the deal in April 2015.

Another thing that further raised eyebrows was the fact that Reliance was to gain a chunk of the money reinvested into India through the joint partnership with Dassault as the offset obligations required Dassault to reinvest 50% of the deal’s earnings back into India’s defense sector. The deal was made to promote research and development in the Indian defense industry.

Read more: India’s Rafale jet deal faces new controversy

The Congress party has repeatedly requested the creation of a joint parliamentary committee to investigate allegations of fraud. However, India’s Supreme Court ruled out investigating the allegations in 2018, and rejected pleas to reexamine its judgment in 2019.

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