New Delhi: The Dassault Rafale fighter jet, manufactured by the French company Dassault Aviation, has won India's mammoth contract worth $10.4 billion, say sources. The Indian Air Force plans to buy 126 aircraft over the next ten years.
The process to determine the L1 (lowest bidder) has been completed, and sources indicate that the final contract is expected to be signed in the next financial year. The first 18 aircraft will be bought off the shelf. The rest 108 will be built by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. through technology transfers.
Sources say Defense ministry experts are still fine-tuning pricing details, including the cost of on-board weaponry and royalties for producing the aircraft in India.
There were six contenders for the world's biggest defence deal which included the Russian MiG- 35,Lockheed Martin's F-16 Falcon, Boeing's F-18 Hornet, the Swedish Saab Gripen, Euro-Fighter Typhoon and Rafale.
Of these, the European EADS Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale were in the final race for the global tender for a medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA). The Eurofighter bid was backed by four partner nations including Germany, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom while the Dassault Rafale was backed by the French Government.
On November 4 last year, Defence ministry had opened the commercial bid of the two firms left in the race and since then has been busy in determining the lowest bidder. The rest were rejected as they didn't meet the technical qualifications.
The deal is the first foreign deal for Dassault's fighter jets. The French have for years been trying to get an export deal. Just last month, French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet warned the Rafale program could be stopped if foreign buyers don't materialize.
Longuet maintained that the Rafale is an "excellent plane" but acknowledged it is handicapped by its price, which is higher than its U.S. rival.
The Rafale, in service for the French Air Force since 2006, has been flying air support roles in Afghanistan since 2007, and was a big part of the NATO air campaign against Moammar Gadhafi's forces in Libya in 2011.
(With AFP inputs)
Dassault Rafale wins Indian Air Force jet fighter deal: Sources