NEW DELHI: With the mega deal for 126 Rafale fighter jets hanging in the balance, the Centre is working on a Plan B if the deal does not come through. A top official in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) claimed that New Delhi will go for strengthening its Su-30 fleet if the deadlock with Paris over the $22 billion deal continued.“If the present deadlock were to continue, we can go for strengthening existing Su-30Mki fleet to meet the IAF’s combat requirements,” a top MoD official said.
At present the IAF has about 200 Sukhoi- 30 fighters, which represent almost a third of the country’s fighter plane fleet. The IAF is already down to 34 Combat Squadrons, as against an authorised strength of 44. Each Squadron has up to 18 fighter planes.
Rafale was declared the lowest bidder in January 2012’. But the Cost Negotiation Committee set up in February 2012 to work out the modalities for the deal has not reached a conclusion yet. Earlier this month, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had told visiting French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian that French government should send an empowered person to break the deadlock.“I have asked French Defence Minister to send an empowered person to break the impasse. And he has assured to send somebody by early next month. Let’s see how things work after that,” Parrikar had said.
Express had last week reported that the much-awaited multi-billion dollar Rafale combat aircraft deal with France had once again run into rough weather.
After cost escalation, French major Dassault Aviation, which manufactures Rafale fighter jets, have refused to take “full responsibility” for the 108 fighters to be manufactured in India by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) as per the original tender. Eighteen of the 126 planes will be purchased directly from Dassault, while HAL will manufacture the remaining 108 under licence, at an upcoming facility in Bangalore.
Key officials in the South block, which houses the MoD said, “The ministry is in no hurry to conclude the negotiations despite what people may say. Dassault has to accept commitment mentioned in the RFP (Request for proposal),”.
Sources also said the Dassault India representatives have repeatedly denied meeting the MoD officials and it can be seen as a message to the French firm about India’s firm stand on the issue.
Another ministry insider said the production sharing agreement with HAL is stuck as well.