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INR 50,000 Cr fighter jet deal impacts Indigenous manufacturing
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INR 50,000 Cr fighter jet deal impacts Indigenous manufacturing

June 19, 2024 6:36 pm

Negotiations are underway for a substantial Rs 50,000-crore agreement on Rafale Marine jets, highlighting Indian commitment to enhancing its naval capabilities in the Indo-Pacific region. The acquisition of 26 Rafale Marine fighter jets from France by the Indian Navy aims at arming its aircraft carrier INS Vikrant and reinforcing its strategic position amid China’s expanding maritime presence.

The Rafale Marine deal signifies growing defence cooperation between India and France and is a boon for Indian manufacturers. The deal, valued at nearly Rs 50,000 crore, will be instrumental in addressing the challenges against China’s expanding naval capabilities.

Naval capabilities

India has been preparing to counter the challenges posed by China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy in the Indo-Pacific region. The commissioning of the indigenously built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant two years ago was a remarkable step. Now, the acquisition of Rafale Marine fighter jets from the French company Dassault finalized in July last year, includes the procurement of 22 single-seat Rafale Marine aircraft and four trainer aircraft, meeting India-specific standards.

According to sources, Rafale-M jets as a temporary measure, to be eventually supplemented and replaced by the new, domestically developed twin-engine deck-based fighter (TEDBF). It is also known as the light combat aircraft. The Indian Navy is optimistic that the TEDBF prototype, currently being developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, will be ready by 2026. The mass production is to begin by 2032. The Indian government is yet to give the preliminary nod for the long-pending case for a third 45,000-tonne aircraft carrier. China is now conducting trials of its third aircraft carrier, the over 80,000-tonne Fujian.

Indigenous manufacturing

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The deal stipulates that the jets will be manufactured with indigenous systems, including weapons and communication technologies. This is expected to give a filip local manufacturing. The involvement of Indian manufacturers in producing components and systems for the Rafale Marine jets will create opportunities, enhancing the capabilities of defence industry.

The Rafale is the epitome of advanced technology. It is equipped with cutting-edge avionics, radars and weapon systems. It surpasses the capabilities of Pakistan’s F-16s. It outclasses even China’s JF-20, a 5th-generation stealth aircraft. The collaboration with Dassault and other French companies in the Rafale Marine deal will accelerate technology transfer and joint ventures, to benefit Indian manufacturers. The inclusion of Indian systems in the Rafale Marine jets will ensure that Indian manufacturers play a crucial role in the assembly, maintenance, and future upgrades of these aircraft.

The Indian Navy currently operates 40 of the 45 MiG-29K jets, acquired from Russia for $2 billion starting in 2009. The Rafale Marine jets, with their superior technology, are expected to enhance the operational capabilities of the Indian Navy. However, the long-term plan remains the development of the TEDBF, ensuring that India remains on track to achieve greater self-reliance in its defence sector.

Conclusively, the French side would meet with Indian Defence Ministry counterparts to begin official negotiations in the fighter jet deal for the Indian Navy. The French team will include officials from their defence ministry, industry and original equipment manufacturers Dassault Aviation and Thales. The Indian side would have members from the Defence Acquisition Wing and the Indian Navy.

The government-to-government deal, to be inked within the financial year, will strengthen India’s Navy. It will also encourage Indian manufacturers, paving the way for a self-reliant and advanced defence industry in future times.

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