news Monday, April 13, 2015 - 05:30
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday said all future negotiations for purchase of French Rafale fighters would be through government to government route. Two days after India announced buying 36 Rafale fighter jets from France in fly away condition, the defence minister said decision on how many more Rafale fighters have to be bought, and if it will also come under 'Make in India', will be decided at government level through negotiations between officials of the two countries. "Scope was only possible in government to government deal. Instead of going through the Request for Proposal (RFP) route where there was lot of confusion and chaos, it was decided that we will go through the G2G route," Parrikar said responding to a question on purchase of the fighters. While stating it has not yet been decided what happens to the tender for purchase of 126 Rafale jets, the minister said it was not clear, however adding that "two roads can't be traveled at the same time". "But if this (government to government) route is followed, obviously, one cannot travel on two different roads... That is why we have adopted the procedure of direct government to government," Parrikar told reporters. The Indian Air Force (IAF) had short listed Rafale for induction into its frontline combat fleet, replacing the ageing Soviet-era MiG-21 squadron but the deal did not materialise for long. The original deal, with an estimated cost of $20 billion, was for delivery of 126 fighters, including 18 off-the-shelf by Dassault, and 108 to be manufactured in India under licensed production by the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) over time, with 50 percent offset obligations to benefit the domestic aerospace industry. The IAF opted for the twin-engined Rafale in January 2012 over Eurofighter Typhoon of the European consortium EADS Cassidian after outsmarting F-16 of American Lockheed Martin, F/A-18 of Boeing, MiG-35 of Russian United Aircraft Corp and Swedish SAAB's Gripen in a global competitive bid floated in August 2007. Meanwhile in an interview to TV news channel CNN-IBN, the defence minister said Rafale jets cannot replace the ageing MiG-21 which will be phased out in the next 6-10 years. "We have 42 squadrons, we need 36-38 active squadrons. We are phasing out MiG-21. Rafale is not a replacement for MiG. It satisfies the upper end. IAF needs aircraft with capacity of 1,000 km radius. It is a strategic purchase. The earlier government should have taken decisions on government-to-government deals," Parrikar said. Parrikar said the IAF needs new fighters within a short time frame and so this government to government deal was finalised. "Rafale is a top end fighter and satisfies other criterion as well. The aircraft is expensive and hence we have to take steps. Rafale cannot replace MiG-21, Tejas can do that. We won't induct any low end aircraft. Tejas is a lighter aircraft, it has its limitations. It cannot loiter for hours. Its carrying capacity is only 10-12 tonnes whereas Rafale can carry 24 tonnes," he said. With IANS    
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