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May 23, 2015

Indian defence minister draws line at 36 Rafales


Key Points

  • India's defence minister has said Delhi will not buy more than the 36 Dassault Rafales to which it committed in April
  • The announcement confirms the end of the MMRCA tender and the government's commitment to the Tejas LCA programme
India will neither licence-build additional Dassault Rafale fighters nor acquire more than the 36 it recently agreed to buy in flyaway condition, the country's Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on 21 May.
In multiple interviews to TV channels to mark the completion of the government's first year in office, Parrikar said the money India had saved by acquiring 90 fewer Rafales would be diverted to buying 200-odd indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).
"By buying 36 Rafales instead of 126, I have saved the cost of 90 Rafales," Parrikar said, adding that this amount was around INR900 billion (USD15.51 billion). "We will use this money to buy Tejas LCA priced at around INR1.5 billion each," he added.
The LCA will replace 10 to 12 MiG-21 and MiG-27 squadrons to be retired from 2022 onwards, he said.
Parrikar declined to reveal the cost of the 36 Rafales, whose purchase Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in Paris on 10 April and which are presently the subject of negotiations. He did, however, confirm that the contract includes a 50% offset obligation.
India's Ministry of Defence (MoD) had been in negotiations with Dassault since 2012 to acquire 126 Rafales in support of the Indian Air Force (IAF) requirement for medium multirole combat aircraft.
Of these, 18 were to have been bought off the shelf and 108 licence-built by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd in Bangalore.
Meanwhile, preliminary investigations indicate engine problems could have resulted in an IAF Sukhoi Su-30MKI multirole fighter crashing in Assam state on 19 May, official sources said. The crash was the sixth such incident involving an IAF Su-30 since the aircraft entered Indian service in 1997.
A court of inquiry into the accident is under way. Both pilots ejected safely from the fighter, which was on a routine sortie from Tezpur's Salonibari base but developed "technical problems" shortly after taking off, sources said.
In March Parrikar told parliament that the Su-30 fleet was plagued by "engine failure in air and engine-related problems" and that the IAF had documented 35 problems with the Saturn Al-31Fp powerpack.
Russian officials, however, deny such problems and attribute all six of the IAF's Su-30 accidents to "human error": an assessment with which the IAF strongly disagrees.
The IAF has inducted around 200 of 272 Su-30s acquired for more than USD12 billion.

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