Thursday, 29 September, 2022
HomeDefenceAdvantage Rafale? Foreign firms want clarity from IAF on ‘staggered’ purchase of...

Advantage Rafale? Foreign firms want clarity from IAF on ‘staggered’ purchase of fighters

The firms believe that staggered buying allows an advantage to Dassault Aviation, which manufactures the Rafale aircraft.

Text Size:

New Delhi: Bemused by Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen Bipin Rawat’s comments that India will stagger the purchase of 110 fighter jets, foreign companies are set to approach the Indian Air Force (IAF) for clarity on what happens to the mega-contract under which planes are to be built in India through a strategic partnership. 

Industry sources said that a staggered purchase hands an advantage to the French firm Dassault Aviation, which already has a contract for 36 fighters. 

They also said that there is no scope for actual Make in India in a staggered purchase process unless one is talking about assembling kits of some number of aircraft in the country. This is contrary to the earlier plan to manufacture them through a strategic partnership.

The Print had reported in August 2019 that there is a growing view in the government and the IAF that rather than focusing on pure numbers in terms of squadron strength, more thought should be given to the capability of the systems. 

Also read: Bipin Rawat headed-DMA will give preference to domain experts like DRDO and ISRO

What the firms say about the CDS’ comments

The firms in contention told ThePrint that they are “confused” by the CDS’ comments. 

This is really confusing. If the CDS says there will be staggered purchase, then what happens to the Request for Proposal (RFP) for 110 fighters that we have been waiting for? Will there be any RFP,” a senior official of a foreign firm in the race for the IAF contract told ThePrint. 

Another official of a different firm questioned what happens to the Make in India initiative. 

There will be no Make in India possible for a limited number of fighters,” the second official said underlining that a large order would help compensate for the hard work and the investment that one will have to put in for Make in India. 

A representative of a third Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) said that there needs to be clarity on what exactly India is looking at so that the companies can offer that as per the demand. 

It makes no sense to come out with an RFP for 110 or 114 fighters when the inside thinking is that the purchase needs to be staggered,” the representative said. 

All the company officials that ThePrint spoke to said that they will seek clarifications from the IAF. 

Also read: Western & Eastern naval commands to merge into Peninsular Command, says CDS Gen Bipin Rawat

Advantage Rafale

Industry sources said that it is a clear advantage for Dassault Aviation, which bagged a Euro 7.878 billion deal in 2016 to supply 36 Rafale fighters in the fly-away condition. The first set of four Rafales is set to land in India by April or May this year. 

Rafale had initially won the mega IAF contract for 126 fighters but the deal could not go through because of a web of issues – primarily differences in cost between the French and HAL.

And then in a surprising move, the Modi government announced its intention to buy 36 Rafales in 2015. 

There has been speculation for a while that India will be buying at least 36 more Rafale fighters once the earlier ordered jets begin getting inducted into the IAF. 

There is a thinking in the government that 36 more Rafale along with the 83 LCA IA and Mark II versions equipped with modern and long-range missiles and systems will help in shoring up the IAF’s strength.

Incidentally, Gen Rawat had touched upon Rafale during his interaction with journalists Monday.

Why do you think only 36 Rafales were bought,” Gen Rawat had said explaining why according to him it makes sense to buy in a staggered manner as it would reduce the cost and also staggered servicing.

On whether this meant that more Rafales could be bought, the CDS said everything depended on what the requirements are.

Defence sources said that additional Rafale would be cheaper than the one ordered in 2016.

This is primarily because a large component of the Euro 1,700 million paid for India Specific Enhancements will come down as the majority of the cost was for Research and Development, modification and certification.

Also, the cost of setting up base and training will also come down. India had paid for setting up two bases for just 36 aircraft. These bases can easily accommodate more aircraft.  

Also read: Women in combat roles: India can romanticise it but here’s why we are not ready yet



Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism


  1. It’s not 36 or 72 Rafales that are needed!
    It’s about 300! And as much of Tejas, preferably fit with the Rafale’s radar and the 98kN version of its engine (the mods blueprints are available since 2017! The RBE2/AESA has been flight-tested on Tejas, the 98kN version of the engine is available and guess what? A stadalone version of Rafale’s active stealth system had been dev’d for Tejas together by Thales and DRDO. All this stuff is already DRDO-vetted!) .
    This might be big contracts, but IAF NEEDS to replace more than 600 obsolete jet-fighters ASAP, so strong decisionship is necessary instead of beating around the bush as it’s the case for 20 years.
    And for the production, it is necessary to make India able to produce two squadrons of both Rafale (36 units) and Tejas (42 units) each year!
    C’mon, Pak is able to produce 26 JF-17 a year, there is no reason India can’t produce about 80 jet fighters a year, moreover, it is necessary!
    There are serious reforms needed in defence related gear procurement bureaucracy which, seen from outside, looks like the Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” movie one.

  2. Substantial cost advantages of going with Rafale for additional fighters in the new RFP cannot be ignored- whether it is a one shot or staggered purchases. If French can deliver and transfer what we want in terms of technology, then it makes a very good sense to go for Rafale. However, we need to factor in requirements of Navy too and decide accordingly. In fact, the talk of coming out with a new RFP for 110 fighters in 2016 was unnecessary at that time and has added to the high expectations of US and European companies. SAAB has absolutely no chance of making it for Grippen and yet it keeps on coming to India hoping for some business. In case of US companies, it must be becoming a headache to handle their business and political pressures, unless our politicians and babus enjoy it. Hope Trump does not want to sell F 21 as a quid pro quo for withdrawing his offer of mediation in Kashmir!!

  3. Whichever way you look at it, the rate of production of advanced aircraft like the Rafale or Hornet will be just 8-15 per year. This is true whether made in India or abroad. hence the induction of aircraft will be staggered. Gen Rawat is stating the obvious. But his remark does give rise to doubts whether there will be a single order for 110 planes.

  4. Not a good move, making more confusing, time to make delay, for another decade or mmrca part 2 – cancel. No proper idea on IAF ‘s burning requirement.

  5. NDA government has to take a leaf from Indira Gandhi’s book between 1965 and 1971. The war of 1965 showed backwardness of IAF as compared to PAF and unimaginative leadership under Air Marshal Arjan Singh, which saw IAF playing absurd role in combat zone, destroying our own 20 battle tanks in a so-called friendly fire. Come 1961, Indira Gandhi had shored up not only IAF, but also Indian Navi and Army to such an extent that India was able to fight battles both on eastern and western fronts. The timing of December 1971 was of india’s choosing, to keep China out of India, as China would not be able to intervene across Himalayas during winter. Even of NDA does not admire Indira Gandhi, learn what is useful from her role as PM.

    • Singing Laurels of Indira Gandhi has nothing to do with the present day IAF issues…especially after the Air battle fiasco of Last Feb 27th !!!

      • It wasn’t a fiasco.

        Losing an old Mig-21 to shoot down an American built F-16 ain’t much of a fiasco.

Comments are closed.

Most Popular