Rafale Induction : Dassault Reliance Aerospace
On 23 Sep 2016, India and France signed an Inter-Governmental Agreement for 36 Rafale, multirole fighter jets following negotiations lasting almost a year and a half, consequent to India’s decision to go in for a direct purchase. The decision taken in Apr 2015, to go in for a direct purchase, also led to the cancellation of the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender for 126 Aircrafts.
The Rafale is a state of the art aircraft with best in class missile systems on board and is capable of carrying nuclear weapons. There is no doubt about its technological sophistication and the enhanced capability that will accrue to the IAF on its account. We must nonetheless remember that it will be by the year 2022 when all thirty-six aircraft will join the fleet.
However, the acquisition of only 36 aircraft, without an options clause begs the question that how are we looking at offsetting the fast depleting strength of the IAF. With an authorised strength of 44 squadrons, the IAF is already down to 33 squadrons and with the inventory ageing fast the IAF will be down to 25 squadrons by the year 2022. The numbers are insufficient to make up the voids. Technological superiority of this or any aircraft cannot offset the deficiencies in numbers especially when we have two disagreeable neighbours to contend with. Our own Tejas induction will not be at the rate at which old aircraft are to be phased out. Even the ‘Make in India’ initiative for fighter aircraft is in a very nascent stage and it will be many years before it fructifies. It is important to mention here that the Rafale will not form a part of this scheme of things.
On a related issue, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence will be a major beneficiary being Dassault’s offset partner. It is not just the financial part of the deal, which is significant, but the technological know how and certain good practices in manufacturing that will flow in as part of the deal.