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India to acquire 26 Rafale naval jets from France for carrier operations on INS Vikrant

French Navy's Rafale marine fighters take off from aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (Image courtesy: Marine Nationale/Dassault Aviation)

Stepping up the strategic partnership and deepening ties in the defence and security sector like never before, India on Thursday announced that it will be procuring 26 Rafale Marine aircraft and three more Scorpene submarines from France for Indian Navy.

New Delhi’s announcement came as Air India One with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on board was continuing its descent towards Paris late Thursday afternoon to begin what is already being described as a ‘landmark’ two-day visit.

The decision to approve the proposals, including the procurement of 26 Rafale Marine aircraft from France that will significantly boost Indian Navy’s operational capabilities, was made during a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

“The DAC granted Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for procurement of 26 Rafale Marine aircraft along with associated ancillary equipment, weapons, simulator, spares, documentation, crew training and logistic support for the Indian Navy from the French Government based on Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA),” said a statement from the Ministry of Defence.

It added that the price and other terms of purchase will be negotiated with the French Government after taking into account all relevant aspects, including comparative procurement price of similar aircraft by other countries. Further, integration of Indian designed equipment and establishment of Maintenance, Repair & Operations (MRO) Hub for various systems will be incorporated into the contract documents after due negotiations.

After India’s acquisition of 36 top-of-the-line Rafale jets for its air force, France was offering its maritime fighter version for carrier operations on the country’s first indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.

Earlier this year at Aero India 2023, Dassault Aviation – the French aerospace company that designs and builts the ‘omnirole’ fighter jets – presented at a model of Rafale C in the colours of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and a model of Rafale Marine which was a candidate for the renewal of the fleet of on-board fighters of the Indian Navy.

As reported by IndiaNarrative.com, while France was offering its Rafale maritime fighters for carrier operations on the largest ship ever built in the maritime history of India, the United States pitched Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III to the Indian Navy.

france india rafaleFrench Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu on board India’s first indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant in Kochi last November (Image courtesy: Twitter/@SebLecornu)

Last November, while on his first official visit to India, French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu boarded INS Vikrant in Kochi to spotlight the central role of naval cooperation between the two countries and France’s strategy for the Indo-Pacific.

The DAC also granted the AoN for procurement of three additional Scorpene submarines under ‘Buy Indian’ category which will be constructed by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL).

“The procurement of additional submarines, with higher indigenous content, will not only help in maintaining required force level and operational readiness of the Indian Navy, but also create significant employment opportunities in the domestic sector. It will also help the MDL in further enhancing its capability and expertise in submarine construction,” the ministry stated.

It is believed that last week’s visit to New Delhi by France’s presidential advisor Emmanuel Bonne, during which he met PM Modi and also held talks with National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, ironed out all remaining issues, thus paving way for another major defence deal between the two countries during PM Modi’s visit to France.

Indian Navy Subarmine

As India creates a robust indigenous defence manufacturing ecosystem at home, French global leaders in the defence industry like Dassault Aviation, Naval Group, Airbus Group, MBDA, Nexter, Safran and Thales have been working overtime to strengthen the long-term partnerships.

From the acquisition of Rafales to the partnership between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Safran to develop helicopter engines, India and France continue to work closely to expand the relationship to new areas of cooperation, as envisaged by PM Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Also Read: Backing ‘Make in India’ to the hilt, French defence leaders eagerly await PM Modi’s Paris visit