France and India on Friday 23 September signed a contract finalizing the acquisition by India of 36 Rafales, compromising 28 single seat and 8 two seater aircraft. The contract ends a proces that has caused headaches in both countries for years, but especially since Indian Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, in April 2015 said his country would purchase the Rafale.
Actually, India chose the Rafale three years before, when in 2012 the French jet came out winning a competition with other fighter jets that already started in 2007. According to Dassault, the new contract ‘demonstrates the strategic relationship and the exemplary partnership between the two countries, and marks the natural culmination of a relationship of trust born in 1953 when India became the first export customer of Dassault Aviation’.
But trust seemed hard to find over the last few years, when fact and fiction about the pending deal became very hard to distinguish from each other. At times, negotiations seemed to be fought out in the media, rather than over the negotiation table. Price, technology transfer and difficulties over license production in India were at the hard of tough talks.
In the midst of this, India saw delivery of newly updated Dassault Mirage 2000s. In the Indian Air Force, the new Rafales will mainly update next to Sukhoi Su-30 Flankers.
The Rafale entered service with the French Navy in 2004 and the French Air Force in 2006. It was proven in combat in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq and Syria. In 2015 and seemingly putting pressure on India, Dassault managed to sell Rafale to Egypt and Qatar for 24 Rafale each. In mid 2016, 152 Rafale were delivered.
Could it really, really be true after all? Several sources have just confirmed that the Indian cabinet has agreed to the purchade of 36 Dassault Rafales in an 8.8 billion USD deal with France. A contract is said to be signed on Friday in New Delhi, which would concluded one of the most ridicilously long negotiations in defense history ever.
What really is true, is that a deal was said to have been closed several times before. What is also true, is that India has been eyeing the Rafale for much longer than Qatar and Egypt ever have, while the latter two ordered their Rafales last year. Dassault probably gave them a nice discount to lure India in further.
India was once in the market for up to 126 Rafales, but that option was deed to costly. Also, India wanted to produce the aircraft mostly in-country while France was hesitant the transfer the required technology. New Delhi meanwhile studied the Su-30 Flanker, F-18 Hornet, Saab Gripen and Lockheed Martin F-16 also.
It should be interesting to see how the final contract turns out. If there is such a contract, of course.
If international headlines are anything to go by, nobody knows what is actually going on in talks between Indian and Dassault for 36 Rafale fighter jets. This week’s headlines ranged from ‘India’s Rafale deal in trouble over offsets and cost’ and ‘Talks for 36 Rafale jets far from over’ to ‘Rafale deal in final stage’ and ‘Rafale deal finalised’. Take your pick!
Each day, the vagenuess surrounding this ‘deal’ gets more vague. In fact, it got more vague on each of the 365 days since a ‘deal’ for 36 aircraft was first reported, also here on Airheadsfly.com. Since then, talks have dragged on over offsets, technology transfer and of course, costs. The deal is worth roughly 8 billion USD.
Flirting in the US
Most importantly, both Dassault and New Delhi mostly kept silent this week. However, India has been known to flirt with both Boeing and Lockheed Martin over the F-18 Super Hornet and F-16 respectively. The promise of local production for these type seems to tempt New Delhi.
Meanwhile, news outlets base their stories on sources ‘close to the negotiations’. It very much looks like something is to be expected soon from an official source. That source will either have his pen ready to finally ink the deal, or a firm headache after difficult talks that eventually led India in the arms of Boeing or Lockheed Martin, or maybe even their Russian equivalents.
Portugal welcomed some rare birds last week, as four Indian Sukhoi Su-30 Flankers and four Sepecat Jaguars landed at Beja airbase. The fighter jets were accompanied by two Ilyushin Il-78 tanker aircraft and two C-17 Globemasters whole on their long, long way to Alaska for exercise Red Flag.
India is sending the aircraft plus a contingent of 150 personnel to the prestigious military exercise within the framework of military cooperation between New Delhi and Washington. The last time India attended Red Flag was in 2008. Then, only Su-30s were involved and the stage was not Alaska, but Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
Red Flag features aircraft from the US and other NATO countries and provides an opportunity for the Indian Air Force to train in complex war environments. Aircraft such as the F-22 Raptor and other fighter jet will be involved and thus provide a good experience for Indian Jaguar pilots and Su-30 crews in particular.
The ferry of the aircraft from India to Alaska was a complex operation. The jets and their support aircraft routed via Bahrain, Egypt, France and Portugal, from where they crossed the Atlantic to Canada before finally arriving in Alaksa for Red Flag.
Some interesting news about the Russian Helicopters Mi-17 helicopters in recent days. The first is the delivery of a second batch of Mi-171 helicopters to the Angolan Air Force. Besides that, as announced on Tuesday 29 March, it seems that Russian Helicopters is close to reach agreement for the long-term service contract with India for the Mi-17 types in service.
“We have conducted negotiations with our Indian partners and we plan to sign a contract that will lay the foundation for collaboration between Russian Helicopters and India in an entirely new way. The company is shifting from offering separate services to providing comprehensive after-sales support. The possibility of such collaboration is now being discussed with the Air Force, Navy and border patrol troops of India,” said Igor Chechikov, Russian Helicopter’s deputy CEO at Defexpo India 2016.
“For us, it will be the first long-term service contract with India. Set prices and delivery dates for supplying equipment needed to repair our helicopters are among the advantages of this type of contract. It will boost Russian-made helicopters’ after-sales system to a new level.”
Mi-17 helicopters in India
According to the preliminary agreement, Russian Helicopters will provide repairs to Mi-17 type helicopters and will supply spare parts for them throughout the entire life cycle of the rotorcraft. Repairs of helicopters operated in India will be performed by enterprises belonging to Russian Helicopters holding company.
The contract life cycle is expected to be 3 – 5 years. Its further extension, as well as an expansion of helicopter models covered by the after-sales support system, are also being considered.
Second batch of Mi-171s to Angola
Recently, a batch of 4 Mi-171Sh helicopters has been delivered to Angola. The helicopters produced by JSC Ulan-Ude aviation plant (operating as part of Russian Helicopters) were supplied in addition to another four delivered to the customer in 2015. The rotorcraft supply contract was concluded by JSC Rosoboronexport.
The helicopters delivered to Angola are fitted with modern flight and navigation equipment optimizing the flight profile and increasing flight safety.