NEWDELHI: Dassault Rafale from France’s stable has kno­cked out its competitor Eurofighter from the consortium of four European nations EADS in a fierce dogfight spa­nning four years to win the biggest ever Indian defen­ce deal, whereby 126 fighter jets will be procured for the Indian Air Force at a cost of over $10.2 billion.
The acquisition process that commenced in 2007 climaxed on Tuesday as the twin-engine 4.5 generation fighter aircraft Rafale (based on designs of 1980s) was declared the lowest bidder, informed sources said. The aircraft, owing to its low signature and high manoeuvrability can dodge radars and strike the enemy hard while remaining elusive.
The two vendors have had a long competitive history. And it is sweet victory for France, which had pulled out of the early stages of the Eurofighter project 30 years ago and opted to develop its own fighter jet, the Rafale, as a successor to the Mirage.
In a statement issued by French Embassy here, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said: “France is pleased with the Indian government’s decision to select the French aircraft to enter into exclusive negotiations with Dassault. This announcement comes at the end of a very high-level, fair and transparent competition involving two European finalists.”
IAF will be the first foreign customer for Rafale and the contract will salvage the fighter jet’s manufacturing line as it faces cuts back home. It is interesting to note that the French were earlier ruled out of the contest for failing to meet certain technical requirements of IAF.
The coveted deal had seen the Europeans and the Fren­ch pulling all strings—politically and economically—to sway the deal. Sarkozy, had, in fact, during his India visit in 2011 strongly backed the French aerospace major’s bid.