In December 2022, a report was published by The Print stating Rafale-M as the frontrunner to bag a mega contract of 26 fighter jets from the Indian Navy, leaving behind US firm Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet. As per report from the naval headquarters to the defence ministry, Rafale-M meets all criteria. The lift of IAC Vikrant has been a major challenge in operating Rafale or F/A-18. The report says that both aircraft had to be brought up and down at a certain angle. While the wings of Super Hornets fold — unlike the Rafale — these still had to be brought up and down at a certain angle. Indian Navy has submitted its report and now the decision is with MoD. It’s been reported that French have offered to transfer some aircraft from its own naval fleet to ensure that the Indian Navy can operate them faster. However, all fighters are likely to be bought off-the-shelf. Rafale-M deal to be signed in March 2023 The French Media, La Tribune has reported that India could announce in March the selection of Dassault Aviation’s Rafale Marine during Emmanuel Macron’s visit to New Delhi. After three Rafale contracts implemented in 2022 (80 in the United Arab Emirates, 6 in Greece and six in Indonesia), Dassault Aviation is almost certain to land a new contract in 2023. Did Rafale-M trial conducted from INS Vikrant? The Rafale Marine close to landing on the Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikrant (Credits: Reuters) La Tribune has also shared picture of Rafale-M landing on INS Vikrant. The picture credit has been given to Reuters. This is an interesting observation as it has never been reported that the Rafale-M has conducted trials from deck of INS Vikrant. Last year in January, Rafale-M has conducted the trials from Shore Based Test Facility in Goa.Impact on MRFAWith the possibility of Rafale-M gaining momentum for Indian Navy, it’s likely that the deal for 114 Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) for IAF would gain momentum. MRFA is going to be Buy Global and Make in India program. Under this scheme the foreign OEM who will be winning the contract will partner with Indian firm to make the fighter jets in India. 18 out of 114 fighters will be directly imported from foreign OEM. The next 36 fighter jet will be made in India. The payment for the same will be done partially in Indian currency and foreign currency. This will constitute the 1st order of MRFA containing 54 fighter jets. The next batch of order will consist of 60 fighter jets. The execution and completion of the next 60 fighter jet order will be the responsibility of the Indian firm in JV with the foreign OEM. The payment for this order will be completely made in Indian currency. This will further aid to increase the indigenous components in the fighter jet to 60%.Made in India Rafale IAF has already invested in infrastructure, training, weapon packages and customization of Rafales as a part for 36 Rafale deal. It must tap on this investment as the next batch of Rafales will cost lower. France has been a strategic partner of Indian military-industrial complex for decades. Reliance Infrastructure and Dassault Aviation has setup a joint venture Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL). Reliance Infrastructure holds 51% stake in the joint ventures with Dassault Aviation holding 49%. DRAL has been supplying aero structure assemblies for Falcon 2000 business jets and components for Rafale aircraft, as part of the global supply chain for Dassault Aviation. Dassault Aviation already sources the Rafale’s engine doors and pylons from India as part of its global supply chain for its global customers and other components will also be manufactured in India. Dassault has already offered to assemble the second batch of Rafale, if ordered by India, at the DRAL facility and is also ready to bid for the MRFA tender for 114 jets, which involves further technology transfer (ToT) and local sourcing. India has also pitched with France to become a hub for maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) for Rafale fighter jets.
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