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India is embarking on a crucial step in its defense strategy by initiating the process to acquire 26 Rafale Marine fighter aircraft, also known as Rafale M, for its second aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant. This significant move aims to bolster the Indian Navy’s capabilities and fortify the country’s maritime defense framework.

The procurement process involves sending a Letter of Request (LOR) to the French government, formally expressing India’s interest in acquiring the Rafale M aircraft. Given that this transaction will be conducted through government-to-government channels, the issuance of the LOR is expected to take place within six to eight weeks following necessary clearances.

The proposed acquisition of the Rafale M holds substantial advantages for India. Notably, training could be expedited, potentially allowing Indian naval pilots to undergo training on French navy fighters. This would eliminate the waiting period for the delivery of Indian fighters, ultimately enhancing operational readiness.

The procurement process further entails the establishment of a negotiating team comprising representatives from both India and France. This team will collaboratively negotiate the terms of the contract, ensuring that the deal aligns with the interests of both nations. Although the contract negotiations are anticipated to unfold over a period of time, the actual signing of the agreement might be deferred until after India’s 2024 general election.

The proposed deal is set to encompass the acquisition of 22 single-seat Rafale M aircraft and an additional four trainer aircraft to augment the capabilities of INS Vikrant. The estimated value of the deal is approximately 5 billion euros (equivalent to around Rs 45,000 crore), which encompasses not only the aircraft but also weapons packages, training costs, and infrastructure development.

The acquisition of the Rafale M fighter aircraft marks a substantial stride for India’s naval capabilities, fortifying its maritime power and expanding its prowess in the region. The move underscores India’s commitment to modernizing its defense infrastructure and equipping its armed forces with advanced technology to address contemporary security challenges effectively.

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