India’s quest to modernize its fighter aircraft fleet with the acquisition of 36 Rafale multirole fighter jets appears set to become a reality as the deal has been transmitted to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for final approval. The deal follows January negotiations between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande on an intergovernmental agreement providing for the sale of Dassault Rafale fighter jets to India.
The transmission of the acquisition file to the Prime Minister came as the Ministry of Defense cleared the negotiation committee’s report to be sent to the Cabinet Committee for Security (CCS) which consists of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of External Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Defense.
The 36 fighter jets are to be acquired for $8.8 billion and include advanced weapon systems modified for the Rafale including the Meteor beyond visual range (BVR) missile adding substantial lethality to the warplane. Initially, the deal was projected to be for $11.2 billion before New Delhi negotiated the price down threatening to walk if the arrangement was too expensive.
The 1,188 mile per hour Dassault Rafale is slower than a number of fourth generation fighter jets, but fits into the category of 4.5 generation fighter jets – with some analysts considering it a full-force fifth generation jet – due to its semi-stealth capabilities.
The Dassault is not a full-spectrum stealth aircraft, but its design reduces radar cross-section (RCS) and it has a minimal infrared signature due to modifications of the tail-fin, fuselage, engine placement as well as the use of composite materials and serrated patterns for construction of the wing edges.
As a result, the fighter jet possesses many of the same stealth capabilities of the high-cost American F-35 fighter jet at less than half the unit cost of the beleaguered Lockheed warplane making it a favored vehicle for reconnaissance and anti-ship strike missions while still possessing air superiority.