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South Asia , Aircraft and Anti-Aircraft

Signs of Backdoor Dealing? Indian Opposition Slams Modi Government for Secrecy of Rafale Acquisition Deal Despite Enormous Costs

February 09th - 2018

Image Credit : Tim Felce (Airwolfhound)

As part of its modernisation program the Indian Air Force is set to acquire 36 French made Dassault Rafale light fighters in a controversial deal worth $8.8 billion - or $244 million per fighter. The Rafale is among the most expensive fighters in the world, though its combat capabilities pale in comparison to tried and tested heavier platforms such as the Indian Air Force's Su-30MKI which come at a fraction of the cost. While the contract also includes the cost of weapons, equipment, tools, training, and logistics – it is still widely regarded as extremely overpriced relative to U.S. and Russian alternatives, which are produced on far larger scales by countries with far more combat expertise and more sophisticated technological bases.

India's opposition referred to the Narendra Modi led government's secretive Rafale deal as "exorbitant", sharply criticising refusal to release details of the contract which could give some indication as to the reason for its tremendous cost. Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi alleged that the ludicrous cost of the acquisition was likely linked to corruption within the Modi government, details of which if released would be highly scandalous. Allegations of corruption in light is the Rafale's price, greater than the total annual defence budget of all but the largest spenders, have been widespread. Comparing the Rafale deal to China's deal to acquire Russian Su-35 heavy air superiority fighters, platforms which eclipse the Rafale's capabilities in all fields without exception including range, radar, climb rate, avionics, payload, manoeuvrability and missile strike range all strongly favour the Su-35, the cost per fighter of the Sukhoi was approximately one third that of the Rafale. Proponents of the Rafale deal have indicated that the acquisition is above all a political decision to cement defence ties with France, though given the poor cost efficiency of the French platform, a malady increasingly symptomatic of Western European defence industries relative to those of their superpower competitors, these political gains have come at a tremendous cost.

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