Ending India's 20 year wait for a new aircraft, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday signed the 7.8 billion euro (Rs 58,000 crore) deal with his French counterpart Jean Yves Le Drian for 36 new Rafale combat jets.
“The deal was signed between the two ministers at a ceremony in South Block and will now pave way for the delivery of the first aircraft by the year 2019,” a Defence Ministry official said here.
The deal comes with a saving of nearly 600 million euro to the government as the Defence Ministry's Indian Negotiating Team had bargained heavily with the French and compelled them to lower the price substantially.
These combat aircrafts, delivery of which will start in 36 months and will be completed in 66 months from the date the contract is inked, come equipped with state-of-the-art missiles like 'Meteor' and 'Scalp' that will give IAF a capability that has been sorely missing in its arsenal.
The features that make the Rafale a strategic weapon in the hands of IAF is its Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Meteor air-to-air missile with a range in excess of 150 km.
Its integration on the Rafale jets will mean that IAF could hit targets inside both Pakistan and across the northern and eastern borders, all the while staying within India's territorial boundary.
'Scalp', a long-range air-to-ground cruise missile with a range in excess of 300 km, also gives IAF an edge over its adversaries.
Sources said that the cost of the 36 aircrafts were about 3.42 billion euros. The armaments cost about 710 million while Indian specific changes, including integration of Israeli helmet-mounted displays, will cost Euro 1.7 billion. The rest of the cost includes spare parts and maintenance.
The aircraft would form two squadrons for the air force which are likely to be deployed at the Ambala air base.
“The credit for the deal should be given to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who decided to scrap the previous deal and decided to go in for a government-to-government deal in view of Air Force's pressing needs,” said former Air Force Vice Chief Air Marshal RK Sharma.