The Indian Navy is seeking expedited delivery of 26 Rafale-M fighter jets from France to prevent a three-year gap before the first delivery of Rafale jets.
Additionally, the Navy is also planning to train fighter pilots from the French Navy jets rather than commencing training after the first Indian jets gets delivered.
According to a report by The Print, the first fighters are typically delivered around three years after the contract signing date.
Notably, the Navy will independently procure the 26 fighters without involving the Indian Air Force (IAF), which is also seeking 114 fighters for its multi-role fighter aircraft (MRFA) requirement.
The IAF already operates 36 Rafale fighters, which were acquired in 2016 during PM Modi's visit to France.
The selection, merging of requirements, and joint price negotiations for Rafales represent a logical choice for both the IAF and the Navy.
As per the report, Dassault, the manufacturer of Rafale, has indicated that establishing a production line of Rafales in India would be viable only with the purchase of more than 100 Rafales.
Should the requirements be combined, the combined fighter count could reach the range of 140s to 150s, potentially leading to improved cost efficiency in joint price negotiations for both the Navy and the IAF.
The price negotiations for procuring these fighters will begin soon, as well.
As per the report, a Letter of Request (LoR) for price negotiations is set to be issued within the next six to eight weeks. Nevertheless, the Navy will independently conduct the price negotiations.
Rafale-Ms were chosen over US-made Boeing F-18 Super Hornets Block-III fighters.
During Prime Minister Modi's visit to France last month for a two-day trip (13-14 July) to participate in the Bastille Day parade, a deal to purchase 26 Rafale-Ms was confirmed, although it was not mentioned in the joint statement.
A day before the Prime Minister's visit, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) led by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also approved the procurement of 26 Rafale-Ms for the Navy.
This deal is likely to cost the Indian Navy €5.5 billion, wherein, 22 single seater Rafale-Ms and 4 two-seater Rafale-Bs trainer aircraft will be bought for a total of 26 Rafale jets.
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