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SOURCE: RAJESH AHUJA / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG

India ordered 36 Dassault Rafale warplanes from France in 2016 and has received 33 of the contracted 36 and 3 already been handed over to India in France while it waits for their Journey back home. Since the 2016 deal with India, France has managed to get Four more countries who have signed up and placed orders for a combined 194 Rafale that includes some used French air force transfers and follow-up orders from Egypt and Qatar who brought 30 and 12 units after the Indian order.

Dassault Aviation is raising Rafale fighter jet production at its main assembly location at Merignac near Bordeaux in southwestern France to 22 per year and there exists a possibility that it will eventually touch 30 per year to meet demands but with a backlog of close to 200 fighter jets and likely more deals to be concluded in coming years it will take on average 4-5 years after placing orders for India to get its new batch of Rafales.

While the Indian air force could love to conclude a deal for 114 jets on priority but it is yet to reach RFP (Request for Proposal ) stage to kick start the Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) Tender process. MRFA deal for 114 units if concluded will mean, India will the first country outside France to have a production facility to manufacture Rafale fighter jet but even if the project is fast-tracked it could still take 5 years before the first Made in India Rafale is rolled out of the new assembly line and another 5 years before the whole contract is concluded if the rate of production is 22 jets per year is maintained in India.

The last of the Made in Rafale will come out only in 2032 if India can meet the above timelines but many could also wonder if it will be appropriate to induct 4.5 gen fighter made using foreign technology rather than fast-tracking development of locally developed 5th gen AMCA program.

Buck stops at the PMO since the last decision to procure 36 Rafale on emergency basics by canceling the previous MMRCA tender for 126 jets was made by the Highest office in India after consulting with the Ministry of defense headed then by Manohar Parrikar. PMO needs to step in now and take a call if it wants to spend nearly $25-30 billion in a single deal for 114 jets or it decides to procure another batch and seek local alternative for the remaining units to beef up the depleting combat squadrons of the IAF at the earliest by fast-tracking and supporting Tejas Mk2 and AMCA program with additional procurement of Air force variant of the TEDBF.

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