France may offer 36 additional Rafale fighter jets to India during bilateral talks scheduled on Thursday. Sources said France could provide additional Rafales at a lesser cost than negotiated for the first 36 Rafale fighter jets in 2016. A high-level Indian Air Force (IAF) team has already arrived in Paris and has been there for the past few weeks.
The delivery of the first batch of Rafale from the 2016 contract is expected to begin in September.
An additional 36 Rafale fighter jets will likely be offered at less than 6 billion euros as the cost of India-specific enhancements, training equipment and infrastructure has already been covered under the previous contract, Indian daily The Economic Times quoted an official as saying.
After four years of negotiations, French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation signed a deal worth 7.87 billion euros with the Indian government in September 2016 to supply the jets which are expected to be delivered by mid-2022.
The terms of the procurement include five years of performance-based logistics (PBL) with options for an additional seven-year extension. The terms also provide for 50 years' product support by the manufacturer.
Indian Rafale is being delivered with IAF specific changes to the aircraft and mounts different types of missiles: beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air Meteor, short and medium-range air-to-air MICA and precision-guided air-to-ground SCALP missiles.
French Defence ministry had also sent a letter to Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in this regard last year, in which, it pressed New Delhi to announce the beginning of the discussion on the additional purchase during the Macron-Modi meet.
French President Emmanual Macron wrote a letter to Indian Prime Minister Modi in 2017 requesting that discussions be initiated on France's proposal to provide 36 more Rafales "with a very significant share of Make in India".
Meanwhile, ahead of meeting with Macron on Thursday Modi said: "Our strong strategic and economic partnership is complemented by a shared perspective on major global concerns" and the visit will further push the long-standing and valued friendship.
IAF Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa expressed his opinion on several occasions stating that the proposed induction of Rafales would shift the technological balance in India's favour, as was the case in 2002 during Operation Parakram and the last stand-off with Pakistan.
The then IAF Chief Arup Raha had said in 2016 though "we have just ordered 36 aircraft we require more aircraft in this middleweight category to give us the entire spectrum of capabilities".
To maintain an advantage over Beijing and Islamabad, India purportedly needs an additional 200 to 250 medium-weight fighter jet aircraft, and the IAF currently fields 31 fighter squadrons (18-20 jets in each squadron) at varying levels of operationalization. By 2027 that number is expected to increase to 42.