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French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will be extensively discussing the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal for the purchase of 126 Rafale fighter jets with Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will be extensively discussing the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal for the purchase of 126 Rafale fighter jets with Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday. Both parties are eager to conclude the over stretched negotiations and seal the deal by early next year.

Once the deal is signed, 18 brand new Rafale fighter planes will be delivered to the Indian Air Force in fly-away condition from France within the first 36 months. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will manufacture the remaining 108 aircraft in India over the next seven years with full Transfer of Technology (ToT) from France.

When the MMRCA contract was originally conceptualised a few years ago the cost of the deal was pegged at $10 billion which has over the years escalated to $30 billion which also includes full Technology Transfer.

The reason for the delay in negotiations between India and France was due to differences over the extent of ToT. The IAF has also insisted on delivery guarantees from the maker of the jet Dassault for the planes manufactured by HAL which so far France has been reluctant to agree.

The deal is extremely important to France as India would become its first export customer for the fighter jet and India would infuse billions into the French Aerospace sector. The production line of the Rafale Fighter jet is close to getting shut down due to lack of orders but the MMRCA deal if concluded will allow thousands of manufacturing jobs to be retained in France and will give a major flip to the French economy.

France hopes that Brazil and the U.A.E. will also sign the deal for the Rafale Fighter if India seals the deal with France upon successful negotiations.

On the other hand the Eurofighter Fighter Typhoon which was one of the last fighter jet to be eliminated from the MMRCA contest, selected by the IAF and pitched against the Rafale is still hopeful of making a comeback. After the elimination from the MMRCA competition and realising that the Indo-French negotiations have faced a deadlock, Eurofighter has gone all out to appease the Indian Government and agree to full ToT and fulfill alll Indian demands. It has even offered to make India a partner in the development of Eurofighters Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar. Eurofighter reportedly offered India an upfront $1 billion discount and more in the long term.

Eurofighter was also one of the lowest bidder in the MMRCA deal but eventually Rafale was selected because of various parameters. The MMRCA deal got a shot in the arm soon after the Modi govt. took charge of India. The Rafale fighter jet manufacturer Dassault created a detailed presentation of the aircraft and presented it to Mr. Modi and other top brass. Indian PM Narendra Modi has personally been involved in contract negotiations and has assured the country that the deadlock in negotiations will be resolved in a few months and the deal will be signed by early 2015. The IAF's combat effectiveness has taken a severe hit due to the delayed MMRCA deal by years and Mr. Modi is to rectify that and seal the deal in months which the previous Congress Govt. couldn't do in years.

If negotiations with France fail then according to Indian procurement laws the process has to be cancelled and the tender to be re-issued. But given the urgency in the Indian Air Force to induct new generation fighter jets the cancellation of the MMRCA remains a distant possibility and there is still a remote option that Eurofighter might get back in the race to the MMRCA deal.
(By: Defence News)

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