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Centre scraps $20 billion MMRCA deal for 126 Rafale jets

Centre scraps $20 billion MMRCA deal for 126 Rafale jets
In a curious move which is likely to have far reaching repercussions on the Indian Air Force (IAF), the Centre has scrapped the $20 billion Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal for purchase of 126 Rafale fighter jets which was negotiated by the previous United Progressive Alliance government.  Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar told a television channel that Rafale fighters cannot replace the ageing MiG-21 which will be phased out in the next 6-10 years.

Parrikar said that India’s indigenous Light Combat aircraft Tejas will replace MiG 21 as both are almost of the same category while the Rafale is a much bigger jet with a longer range and more weapons carrying capabilities. “We have not purchased any new aircraft of latest technology in the past 15 years. IAF desperately needs fourth generation aircraft, the fifth generation that we are working on will take 10-15 years,” said Parrikar.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his recent visit to France negotiated with the government there to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly-away condition under a new deal. After meeting French President
Francois Hollande in Paris on April 11, Modi announced that IAF would get 36 Rafale jets.

“I think it is a bold decision and I will give 100 out of 100 to the Prime Minister. Many people politically fail to take decision. But the need of the nation comes first. What Modi has done is that he has got a deal for 36 aircraft. We will negotiate and will buy more. The ice has been broken,” he said.

“We are phasing out MiG-21. Rafale is not a replacement for MiG. It satisfies the upper end. IAF needs aircraft with capacity of 1000 kms radius. It is a strategic purchase. The earlier government should have taken decisions on government to government deals,” added Parrikar. While pointing out that IAF needs new fighters within a short time frame and so the government to government deal to buy 36 Rafale jets was finalised.

“We have not purchased all 36 aircraft. When there is a PM or President level deal, it is matter of principle clearance. We have promised to purchase 36 aircraft. The major reason for the deal is to induct it in the minimum time frame. It is a good deal,” he said.

“Make in India part of the deal will be discussed between ministries. Rafale is a top end fighter and satisfies other criterion as well. The aircraft is expensive and hence we have to take steps. The deal for 126 jets would have cost Rs 90,000 crore. Rafale cannot replace MiG-21, Tejas can do that. We won’t induct any low end aircraft.”   


M Post Bureau

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