New Delhi. The Government is likely to approve at least another 36 Rafale Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCAs) very soon.
Details are not known but informed sources told India Strategic that although a decision was just about due, the possibility of more aircraft was also being considered in view of the Indian Navy’s requirement of 56 twin-engine shipboard fighters as also the Government’s Make in India programme. If only 36 Rafales are taken, then it would not be economical to set up their manufacturing infrastructure.
IAF - Mix - Engine - Fighters - Combat
IAF is looking for a mix of about 400 single and twin engine fighters as most of its combat jet inventory is of the 1980s Soviet generation. The Mirage 2000, which was acquired from France after the US gave Pakistan F 16s in 1982, also arrived in IAF squadrons from 1985 onwards.
The nuclear-capable Mirage 2000 though is still formidable and some half a dozen of the nearly 60 have already been upgraded to contemporary standards by Thales, the French company known for making deadly Electronic Warfare (EW) systems. Thales is providing the highly sophisticated EW systems for the Rafales also.
Navy - Preference - Boeing - F/A - Super
The Indian Navy has expressed specific preference for either the Boeing F/A 18 Super Hornet or Rafale. Both these fighters were designed ab initio for aircraft carriers, and both are on offer for their industrial production in India if the numbers are viable for foreign investment and Transfer of Technology (ToT). Boeing has offered to manufacture the latest variant, Advanced Super Hornet, which is also meant for the US Navy.
Significantly, if the deal is only for 36 more aircraft, then the field would be open for a larger number of twin-engine aircraft for both the IAF and Navy. If the coming deal is for indigenous production for more than 36, then Rafale would become the final choice.
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