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Everything you wanted to know about Rafale and did not know who to ask

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The Rs 59,000-crore Rafale deal is at the centre of a furious war of words between the govt and opposition. Here’s an explainer on the jet and the controversy.

What is the Rafale?

A twin-engine fighter jet that was selected by the Indian Air Force.

Why did the IAF select the Rafale?

The IAF is worried over the rapidly dwindling number of fighter squadrons in its fleet. It desperately wants to overcome the shortage because the MiG 21 fighters, which are the mainstay, are being phased out and the defence public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is yet to develop the home-made Tejas Light Combat Aircraft to the IAF’s standards for fully operational fighters.

Who makes the Rafale?

French company Dassault Aviation makes the main platform. It integrates avionics, weapons and engines from a number of other mostly French companies such as Thales, Snecma, Safran and MBDA.

Has India done business with Dassault?

India has a history of dealing with Dassault Aviation. It made the strategic Mirage 2000 aircraft that are capable of delivering nuclear warheads. The IAF has two squadrons of the Mirage 2000 that Dassault and its fraternal French companies are now upgrading.


Also read: Ex-union ministers Yashwant Sinha & Arun Shourie demand CAG audit into Rafale deal


Is it the same as Rafael?

No, Rafale is a French product that should not be confused with the Israeli defence company, Rafael. In French, “Rafale” means a gust of wind.

Why does the IAF feel that the Rafale meets its requirements?

In 2012, after trials and evaluations in the country and overseas of six fighter jets, the IAF “down-selected” two aircraft — the Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon through a global competition. It had tendered to buy 126 planes of the medium multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA) category. The Rafale was chosen — but not contracted — because the first 18 aircraft that it was to induct off-the-shelf beat quoted a lower price that the Eurofighter.

Is the Rafale expensive?

When the global tender for 126 MMRCA was floated, defence ministry estimated that the purchase would cost Rs 42,000 crore. The estimated price of the 36 Rafales now is Euro 7.87 million or rougly Rs 59,000 crore.

Why two different figures — 126 and 36?

The IAF had originally projected an operational requirement of six squadrons (126 planes) to implement the government’s 2009 “operational directive” to be prepared for a two-front (China and Pakistan) war.

The decision to purchase 36 Rafale was taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Paris in April 2015. The contract was signed in September 2016.

There was no contract for the 126 Rafales in the original tender because talks were stuck on the final price.

Why IAF opted for Rafale?

The IAF was looking for a multirole aircraft. The Rafale is described by Dassault as “omnirole”. It has to be capable of operating in different weather conditions and altitudes in India; it has to be capable of ground-attack as well as air-to-air capability. Plus, it must have stand-off capability.


Also read: Modi should not allow Rafale jet deal to become another Bofors


Stand-off capability implies that the plane must to able to shoot air-to-air and air-ground from beyond visual range. The Rafale offers the Meteor air-to-air missile for the BVR air capability and the Scalp missile for the air-to-ground capability.

The Rafale can pull between 3.6g to 9g — 1 g is the force of gravity on the human body. Since a fighter pilot is trained to perform complex manoeuvres, the integrity of both the human body and the aircraft frame has to be ensured.

Will all 36 Rafales be made in France?

Yes, the current contract is for Dassault and partners to deliver the aircraft in ready-to-use configurations. But there is a provision for “offsets”.

What are ‘offsets’?

Offsets are a portion of the money incurred by customer that is ploughed back to help develop indigenous industry.

So is Reliance an offset partner?

Yes, but it is not the only one. Dassault has MoUs with nearly 70 companies. Reliance Defence already has a joint venture going Dassault in Nagpur.

Why not HAL that has experience?

It is really a business decision of Dassault who it will partner with. HAL was identified as the ‘lead integrator’ in the global tender of 2007 that is now cancelled. HAL does not produce aircraft from scratch. It has licensed production arrangements with several foreign manufacturers such as the Russian Aircraft Corporation.

What kind of contract does India have with France?

Essentially, it is a two-tier contract. First, there is a contract with Dassault and the Indian government. At the second level, there is an inter-governmental agreement between the Indian and French governments (IGA) that underwrites the contract with the company.

Has the govt dumped HAL in favour of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence?

The government officially says that Dassault’s joint venture with Reliance is yet to be formalised. The two entities have not yet shared business plans. That is the kind of requirement that any company would have to satisfy the government about before it embarks on its business.

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33 COMMENTS

  1. Actually The Print and more so Shekhar Gupta look to be defending the Rafale deal although posturing to be anti-BJP. It is difficult to believe they are not able to see through the clever manipulation done by Narendra Modi rescue a completely broke Anil Ambani owing Rs 35K Cr to psu banks making him ride the Dassault bandwagon.As per original IOP rules of DPP-2013 the offset partner chosen by Dassault had to be approved by the GOI along with the main contract with France too in the picture giving sovereign guarantee. What must have happened is when Modiji imposed Anil Ambani as the IOP as pre -condition for the contract it was not acceptable to the then French govt.of Francois Hollande. Then MOD changed the IOP rules amending the DPP-2013 allowing main contract signing w/o IOP which could facilitate nomination of IOP separately later by Dassault in a given time frame to be approved by RM.Then you have the other IOP rules on responsibilities of Dassault in respect of IOP vis-a-vis GOI, of periodic monitoring for performances, penalties etc.by GOI for which even French govt. could be held responsible provided they give “sovereign guarantee which they have not given precisely because they do not have confidence in Anil Ambani.’This is how Modi govt. have forcibly thrust Anil Ambani in to the contract in- spite of French govt. not approving him. Next, on price the 300% inflated price on same Rafale RFP —that is bare plane plus same avionics as UPA times but extra weaponry(which again is a separate contract with MBDA as per UNI interview ) and inflation. But given the 3 times original price and double the price announced in Parliament the ‘kick-backs’ must have been cushioned in the inflated extra price which must have been already funneled to Reliance thru front companies about which RG keeps harping. So unless some investigating agency checks the break up of price with justification how does one give the deal a clean chit ? Modiji was voted for fighting corruption but BJP keeps on harping about UPA times corruption on D-contract but signs an opaque D-contract.So where is the CHANGE ?

  2. A very. Shallow article.But what is amazing is the childish and politically motivated comments by ignorant people who have no knowledge

  3. It is suspicious as the questions are raised from the day one of deal signing. It was raised in all by elections but Government never made any statement about Price & Ambani in the deal. After more than one & half year when the same raised in Parliament, Govt not only too late but also in the wrong eyes with hiding the facts by saying there is clause of secrecy when Govt. paid media giving clarifications with distorted facts. On top that PM not making any statement. It is the fact that this Govt Has favoured only few Corporate houses. For more than three years blaming previous Govt for corruption & could not nail any one for the Scams rather based on biometric linked Aadhaar number launched all schemes. The fact remains that previous Govt. did termendous job by collecting huge data of Aadhar and started scheme like Linking Aadhaar with LPG subsidies with a vision to eliminate corruption. Mr.,Rajiv Gandhi had pointed out that out of 1 rupee only 15 paise is reaching effectively for the assigned expenditure rest 85 paise are sucked by middleman.
    Now when next elections are approaching instead of giving the stock of what they ( specially PM ) said or committed in previous campaign not only in India but also by PM all over world, they now started blaming 70 years of previous Govts. PM spent money on touring and public meeting all over the world in the name of Indian Diaspora with not improving relations with neighboring countries is totally failure of his diplomacy both internal & internationally. Today our society is moving dangerously, I hope you would have understood the topic which I am pointing.

  4. Shekharji very clever man mediating between bjp government and rafael for monetary benefit. Better you can select robbery instead of journalism

  5. Heh,heh, heh. The Rafale is a very very good aircraft, nearly, or almost on par with the F-35. Unfortunately, it is also very very expensive. GOI may not want you to know that the Rafale costs about the same as the F-35 (it might actually costs more).

  6. The quality of content is pathetic and must be paid by BJP. You have said that deal was never happen during UPA, you were right but UPA deal confirmation has happened in 2016 during modi for 126 Jets and the same has been communicated by HAL head and Dasault chairman in a press conference. Modi changed the same after 6 months. You gave me good format now I will write point by point to expose the paid media like yours

  7. Its pity to know that the country deserves colition governments and not a single party monarch government. When the aspect of accountability is concerned, we are the costliest people living on the earth, the other side of the coin is that we pose ourselves as the followers of Vedas and dharma.

  8. It’s pity to have such situation for the country men that the prime minister does not understand that he is not a person but an institution and he is assisted by so many committees and heads to enter into any deal or challenge that the country deserves. Personalization of the deal has brought a grim situation of this nature. Even if it is proved that there has been no wrong manipulation in the deal, mentally the damage has already been felt by the people of the country.

  9. यह सब मोदी
    बचाने के लिए चाटूकारिता
    की गई है। झूठे तथ्य।
    Thu thu

  10. यह सब मोदी
    बचाने के लिए चाटूकारिता
    की गई है। झूठे तथ्य।

  11. Please confirm it is apple to apple comparison .
    If both are not same UPA & NDA version .then highlight deviations & associated price differential.
    I dont think PM Modi will settle dealfor higher price knowing fully well Bofors & Augusta case being debated in print & electronic media.
    Truth & Transparency must be revealed.

  12. Enough time has now passed to demonstrate to India that the Eurofighter is by far the better deal. India might well require some Rafales for carrier operations, but that no longer remains sufficient reason to supply Rafales to land based operations.

    The Rafale is a lugger, like the F-18. India does not require luggers. No nation flies its aircraft around with any more than the bare minimum of munitions. The Eurofighter has the most reliable engines ever produced on a fighter. You buy the plane, and it flies; anywhere, anytime. Plus, compared to the Rafale, the Eurofighter retains massive growth potential. Already there are aerodynamic upgrades at minimal cost that will make the Eurofighter outperform the Rafale in dogfight manoeuvres. But that is mute anyway, since of all fighters pitched against the F-16 in dogfighting trials none bar the Eurofighter routinely beat it, and certainly no other fighters go on regularly beat two F-16’s at the same time. The Eurofighter is readied for a 20% increase in thrust that no operator feels the need for yet. Vectored thrust operates on the test bed yet no operator feels the need to afford it. The Eurofighter is set up for conformal fuel tanks that no operator demands yet. The rafale can get nowhere near being able to provide this growth potential.

    The Eurofighter, uniquely, has the variable aperture intakes, high power to weight and miniscule frontal radar cross section to operate alongside the F-22 Raptor undetected.

    https://i.redd.it/339tozvdt87x.png

    https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/i-went-war-against-stealth-fighters%E2%80%94-lost-badly-26156?page=2

    Uniquely amongst the three Euro Canard aircraft (Eurofighter, Rafale, Gripen), the Rafale is stunted by not being able to receive communications from the Meteor missile.

    The Eurofighter can carry larger radars than the Rafale. With the new AESA radar set for upgrade and new Eurofighter deliveries, the Rafale will again be isolated as the only Euro Canard incapable of side scanning radar tactical operation and self defence.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOvAtAX3DT0

    All anyone needs to know about the Rafale is: – if you can afford it, you can afford the Eurofighter.

  13. It is a commendable and bold decision on the part of the government to get these Rafael aircraft in a fly away condition. Sadly the gullible public is made to believe that it is a bad deal. The truth is that HAL has been eating the tax payers money for decades. The gross delays in production, with pathetic product support has been the hallmark of HAL. I have personally dealt with them during my three decades of service in the defence aviation. It is high time to call a spade a spade and move along. Yet once again with one step forward with move two steps backwards. Tejas aircraft to become fully operational will take years. We have people in public life with no clue about aeronautics and military know-how commenting on a good deal with the French government.

    • HAL Has been eating taxpayers money for decades, we must let others also eat it and अनिल ambanis company desperately needed help. They are already in red, almost 35000 crores. We being true Indian must help anybody in need. It was and is simple.

  14. An article has created more fog then clarified exact details.1.what is the cost of aircraft without add on.2.diffence in cost between us and oman and egypt aircraft.3.who will provide spares and for how long.4.maintainance back up.5.upgradation .6.how off set will be utilized,in which industry.7.relience will be making what kind of products.8.what are govt checks and balances over off set industries ect

  15. Does it cover everything? Where are the questions related to price difference?
    A good batting on behalf of ….The print has its Agenda too…

  16. You have omitted to explain 1 Are the two Rafales same.? 2. The extent of operational and technical differences between the two. 3. Is the deal for 126 still alive? 4. What contributes to the difference in unit cost?

  17. This is for school kids ! well written though but missing the crux of the issue which is severe overpayment for 36 Rafale in fly away condition.

  18. Why it is not mentioning about the details of 126 Rafaels, such as armaments,missiles,India specific changes,maintenance,not taking responsibility of HAL producing Rafael s,Etc. Etc.

  19. Such a expensive and advance fighter jet is not required for IAF atleast for next 20 years. GOI is literally wasting tax payers money and making those white people reacher for nothing instead GOI should concentrate on indigenous weapons like Tejas.
    What those 36 French jets would make any difference in our arsenal, those fighters are useless from its induction instead induct 300-400 Tejas.

  20. Shekhar ji has once again shown his journalistic intelligence. Invisibly he wants to support BJP. He has cleverly arranged this article. Shekhar ji once again it is requested not to support wrong. You have achieved what one needs in journalism world. Now atleast be frank and bring out truth like Shoury and others.

  21. Do not understand govt.’s reluctance to come clean on the deal by sharing price structures. Public has a right to judge if the new deal by PM Modi by scrapping the old deal is a sugar-coated scam. Yeshwant Sinha and Arun Shourie are not dummies or duffers. Their concern is rational and genuine.

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