IAF to induct 36 Rafale jets in two years: Parrikar

With India agreeing to buy 36 of the Rafale fighter jets from France on an emergeny basis, these aircraft will be inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) in another two years, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said on Friday.

Parrikar's statement comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India will buy 36 Rafale jets from France in fly-away condition, lifting the veil over a deal that has been pending for the last 17 years.

The decision to acquire 36 fighter jets, however, will not form part of any larger deal, which would be pursued separately, French authorities said.

Parikkar hailed the deal that would help the IAF meets its immediate ''critical operational necessity''.

Under the earlier offer, Dassault was to supply 126 fighters at an estimated cost of $20 billion and the remaining 108 aircraft being manufacture in India under license from its manufacturers Dassault Aviation.

Dassault Aviation, which will now directly sell double the number, ie 36, has welcomed the development.

The IAF had shortlisted Rafale for induction into its frontline combat fleet, replacing the ageing Soviet-era MiG-21 squadron but the deal did not materialise for long.

The original deal, for 126 fighters, at an estimated cost of $20 billion, included 18 off-the-shelf by Dassault, and 108 to be manufactured in India under licensed production by the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) over a period of time and with 50 per cent offset obligations, which would benefit the domestic aerospace industry.

The IAF opted for the twin-engined Rafale in January 2012 over Eurofighter Typhoon of the European consortium EADS Cassidian, F-16 of American Lockheed Martin, F/A-18 of Boeing, MiG-35 of Russian United Aircraft Corp and SAAB Gripen of Sweden in a global competitive bid floated in August 2007.

French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will visi India soon to finalise the deal, Hollande said.

French defence ministry source said the deal announced on Friday was separate from the original negotiations and came about after new Indian defence minister Manohar Parrikar indicated the country's urgent requirements.

"We informed them we were ready to respond to their operational needs separate from the tender under discussion for three years," the source said.

Meanwhile, the value of a larger 126-plane deal being negotiated is estimated to have grown to about $20 billion from an initial $12 billion, primarily because of an Indian requirement that 108 of the jets be built in the country.

The deal is another boost for Dassault Aviation after it sealed its long-awaited first export deal to Egypt in February, which could be worth about 4 billion euros.