‘Rafale fighter jets to be inducted in IAF in two-year span’

New Delhi: A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic announcement that India will buy 36 Rafale jets from France, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Saturday said the country has finally broken the ice over the deal which had been pending for the last 17 years.

Rafale fighter jets will be inducted in the Indian Air Force in a span of two years, said Parrikar.

He further hailed the deal to buy Rafale jets from France as a “great decision taken on the terms and conditions that are better”.

A breakthrough in the much-delayed process of buying Rafale jets was reached on Friday as Modi announced India will buy 36 Rafale jets soon, citing “critical operational necessity”.

The decision is among the several agreements reached between the two countries after his meeting with French President Francois Hollande in Paris.

“Keeping in view the critical operational necessity of fighter aircrafts in India, I have spoken with the (French) President for buying 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition as soon as possible,” Modi said while addressing the media jointly with the French President.

Modi said these jets will be bought under an agreement between the two governments.

The Indian Air Force had shortlisted 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% 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.

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