NEW DELHI, Sept 23 (NIA) – India on Friday signed a 7.8 billion Euro deal with France to acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets, which come equipped with cutting edge long-range missiles such as ‘Meteor’ and ‘Scalp’, the government said.
French Defence Minister Jean Yves Le Drian arrived in New Delhi on Thursday night to ink the deal, along with the CEO of Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale jets.
The Indian Express reported that the deal was signed by India’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Le Drian sixteen months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India’s plans to buy 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in fly away condition during his trip to France.
India will also get spares and weaponry, including the Meteor missile, considered among the most advanced in the world. The first Rafale warplanes are slated to be delivered roughly within 18 months of the signing of the final contract.
India has become the world’s biggest arms importer, with an economic boom enabling it to modernize its military. Major arms manufacturers are wooing the country as it replaces its obsolete Soviet-era weapons and buys new equipment.
The Indian air force has an approved strength of 42 squadrons with 16 to 18 aircraft each, but at present has only 32 squadrons, said Praful Bakshi, an aviation expert.
The New York Times said that France has used Rafales in several combat missions in recent years: over Libya in 2011, in Mali last year and currently as part of the international campaign against Islamic State group militants in Iraq from a French air base in the United Arab Emirates.