New Delhi: France has received a Letter of Request (LoR) from India to sell Dassault Aviation’s Rafale Marine to the Indian Navy for its aircraft carriers. The deal for 26 Rafale-Ms reaching the finish line, the French aircraft maker is setting its eyes on the big ticket, an unfinished 114-jet order for the Indian Air Force.
The LoR is like a tender document in which the Indian government has specified all its requirements and capabilities on the Rafale Marine aircraft. It will operate from aircraft carriers — INS Vikrant and INS Vikramaditya.
The contract signing is still some time away, as France would still evaluate the LoR and reply to India with a Letter of Acceptance or LoA before cost negotiations for the 26 jets begin. The signing of the contract is expected in 2024.
Dassault Aviation has seen the demand increase for Rafale omni-role fighter jets globally after it delivered 36 Rafales for the IAF in a government-to-government contract. Most recently, the French media claimed that Rafale has won a deal to supply 54 Rafales to Saudi Arabia after a veto from Germany dashed the chances of Eurofighter Typhoon winning the contract.
Dassault Aviation’s Rafale is competing against Boeing’s F/A-18 and F/15EX, Lockheed Martin’s F-21, SAAB’s Gripen, and three other prominent combat jets from around the world for the Indian Air Force tender — called the mother of all deals — to supply 114 Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA).
Rafale had, in 2013, won a previous tender for 126 jets, floated by the IAF in 2007, called the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) procurement program. But in 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi canceled the tender, which had become unviable, and bought 36 Rafale off-the-shelf from France in a nearly US$8-billion deal. That’s why Dassault Aviation sees this MRFA for 114 jets as an “unfinished” business.
The IAF floated the RFI in 2018 and got an enthusiastic response from aircraft makers worldwide for the multi-billion-dollar deal. After setting the fresh ASQRs, as the EurAsian Times earlier reported, the IAF is awaiting the government’s nod to send a proposal for an Acceptance of Necessity (AoN). For a year, there has been no movement on the MRFA deal.