Whenever we buy a car or a bike, everybody wants to know first is How Much? Same happened when the Indian government goes shopping for fighter Jets. Now everybody wants to know that if Congress cracked this deal better or BJP. If we want to understand Rafale deal first we have to understand what is Rafale aircraft.
Rafale Aircraft – Rafale literally means ‘Gust of Wind’ and ‘Burst of Fire’ in the more military sense. Rafale is a French twin-engine canard-delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. It’s no Jericho missile from iron man but it’s one of the best. Rafale is referred to as an ‘Omnirole’ aircraft that means it can carry out the wide range of missions like
- Air-defense / air-superiority
- Anti-access / Area Denial
- Close air support
- Dynamic Targeting
- Air to ground precision strike/interdiction
- Anti-ship attacks
- Nuclear Deterrence
- Buddy-buddy refueling
General characteristics –
- Crew – 1-2
- Length – 27m
- Height – 34m
- Wing area – 7m2
- Wing span – 80m
- Max speed – High altitude – Mach 1.8
- Low altitude – Mach 1.1
- Range – 73,700 km with 3 drop tanks
In 2001 Indian Air force demanded Indian government that they need Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) because at that time India already had heavy and lightweight fighter jets however the process of actually buying fighter jets started from 2007. In 2007 head of defense acquisition council and the defense minister of that time Mr. AK Antony approved the proposal of buying 126 aircraft in August 2007. After that bidding was started to buy those planes. Many Aircraft manufactures came forward.
It was going to be the biggest defense deal of free India. India had six options ahead:-
- Lockheed Martin’s F16 aircraft
- Boing FA18 Super Hornet
- Eurofighter Typhoon
- Russian’s MIG35
- Sweden’s Saab Gripen
- Dussault aviation’s Rafale aircraft
Indian air force, after testing, shortlisted Eurofighter and Rafale. The overall bid of Rafale was minimum and maintenance was also easy so congress led government ordered 126 Rafale aircraft from Dassault aviation France. At its inception, the deal was entreated approx. Rs. 54000 crore for which Indian would get 126 fighter Jets. 18 jets were ordered as ready to fly condition and rest 108 were supposed to be manufactured in India under HAL through the transfer of technology. Seems pretty simple deal right? But yet Indian doesn’t have those 126 Rafale Jets. Let’s understand why?
When Dassault aviation’s won that bid in 2012 Indian government and Dassault start negotiating the price of jets, normally these negotiations last 3-4 months but in this case negotiations continued for 4 years. Why 4 years? Let us try to explain. In 2012, the presidential election was held in France and in 2014’s general election of India Congress lost and BJP rose to power at the center. And then again a new president was elected in France in 2017. On one hand, negations were on the run and on other governments kept changing, hence the delay.
New government, New Deal
When BJP led government came to existence at central they thought that the price of those 126 jets was too high and only 18 jets were in ready to fly condition and other 108 which were suppose to be manufactured in India at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and that was going take too much time in manufacturing. Reasons, first we have to acquire the technology from Dassault then manufacture it in India that’s too much wait and India can’t afford that much time. BJP government thought that we are hopelessly, hilariously outgunned in the reference of fighter jets and we need ready to fly jets as soon as possible. So instead of buying 128 jets BJP govt. declares a deal of 36 ready to fly jets.
Once BJP declared this deal, Congress alleged BJP of non-transparency and said that BJP is mocking ‘Make In India’ project because In congress’s deal 108 jets were supposed to manufacture in India but in BJP govt. transfer of technology is not possible and all 36 jets are now supposed to come to India at ready to fly condition.
In January 2016 India finalized the deal of 36 fighter jet with France. According to this deal, Dassault and their partner company Safron and Thales were supposed to share some of their technology with The Defense Research And Development Organization ( DRDO ) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). In September 2016 when BJP govt. finally sign the Rafale deal, India has to pay Rs. 58000 cr. to Dassault aviation and 15% would have to be paid in advance. According to this deal, India will get 36 rafale jets along with spare parts and weapons, including Meteor missile which is one of the most advanced missiles in the world.
But it’s not the end of that story, there was one more clause in that deal which was, from that 58000cr. Dassault has to invest its 30% in the military and aeronautics research in India and 20% in the production of components of Rafale jets in India.
After November 2016 India stars to face a political war about this Rafale deal. Congress alleged that BJP is wasting tax payer’s money on this 58000cr deal and also making reliance defense ltd. and Dassault partners for benefiting Anil Ambani. According to Congress, BJP’s deal is 3 times more costly than 2012’s congress’s deal. However, defense minister Nirmala Seetheraman and Anil Ambani deny all the accusations.
Reliance defense ltd. later said that their subsidiary company Reliance Aerostructure and Dassault aviation made a joint venture namely Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd. on their own, mutual decision and Indian govt. had no role in it. Even after this statement, Congress continued to allege BJP, demanding BJP to made this rafale deal public.
On 5 Feb 2017, RTI were file against Indian Airforce to reveal the signed documents and the price of this deal, in response to which Defense minister Seetharaman said that India or France can’t disclose the price of this rafale deal because of the intergovernmental agreement between both countries and it’s a matter of national security.
Even that is not the end of the story, on 17 Nov 2017, the defense minister said in an answer to opposing the party that “I have no problem reveling the cost of those fighter jets because its public’s money and I will soon reveal the numbers”. Next day minister Subash Bhamre revealed the cost of Rafale jets, that is approx Rs. 670cr per jet exclude the weapons and jets will be arrived in India by April 2022. Now some will say what about that intergovernmental agreement? Well who knows, actually defense minister does.
Anyway, you must be thinking who got us a better deal Congress or BJP? Well like this deal, this answer is also complicated. In congress govt. that deal was never finalized, the deal was first delayed then completely stalled. Why is that? Let’s look at a few reasons:
- In congress govt. India and France can’t come to any mutual decision on transfer of technology.
- Dassault aviation was not going to take any responsibility for those 108 jets which were supposed to manufacture in India at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
- Both parties can’t agree on the final price, Dassault’s final price was 740cr. per jet and India wants them in 20 % less.
Today Congress is claiming that they finalized Rs 526cr for each jet, but no one knows that if Dassault aviation was agreed to this or not because they never confirmed it. Congress believes that BJP is paying Rs 1571cr. for each jet which is 300% more than congress’s deal and because of that India will face a loss of Rs. 40,000 cr. but all this purely hypothetical hence there no point of comparing these two deals.
congress was going to buy 126 Aircrafts
BJP is buying 36 Aircrafts
Its obvious that if we reduce quantity per item price will get higher, beside that in BJP’s deal all 36 jets are in ready to fly condition and there is no clearance that if Congress would have to buy those jets whether they would come with weapons or not and if not what’s the benefit of buying them then. We got only one conclusion, BJP or Congress no one can be trusted.
Delivery of those jets will start from Sep 2019 and will get all jets by Apr 2020.