India has agreed to pay $8.8 billion to France’s Dassault for 36 fighter jets as sources from both countries hinted a long-delayed deal to purchase the aircraft was imminent. The final agreement is set to be signed in India in three weeks, but delivery of the aircraft will not take place for another 18 months.
The Dassault Rafale fighter jet is almost completely French, with fuselage, avionics, engines and weapons all made in that country. Rafales have flown in combat in Afghanistan, Libya, Mail and Iraq. France operates 140 Rafales including the Rafale M, a navy version of the fighter featuring strengthened landing gear and a tail hook for use on aircraft carriers.
Although relatively small compared to planes like the Eurofighter Typhoon and F-22 Raptor, Rafale packs a powerful punch. Twelve wing-mounted hard points can carry a combination of air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, sensors, and drop tanks. Despite the fact that the Rafale is now a 30-year-old design, upgrades such as the RBE2 AA active electronic scanning array (AESA) radar, Damocles targeting pod, Meteor air-to-air missiles, and SCALP cruise missiles have kept the design competitive with other so-called “4+ generation” fighters.
In January 2014, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced that €1 billion is allocated towards the development of the F3R standard. The standard will see the integration of the Meteor BVR missile, among other weapons and software updates. The standard is to be validated by 2018. The Rafale is planned to be the French Air Force’s primary combat aircraft until 2040 or later.