New Delhi(dna): The deal struck with France for purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets will bring some "oxygen" to the Indian Air Force into which they will be inducted within two years, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said today.
He described as "great" India's decision to buy these fighters after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande in Paris yesterday, saying it will go a long way in strengthening the IAF.
"Indian Air Force will get minimum oxygen (relief) it requires with this deal...In fact we have not purchased any major new generation aircraft in (last) 17 years.
"It's a great decision taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on better terms and conditions. Procuring 36 planes for two squadrons is an extremely positive decision which was needed," Parrikar told PTI.
India on Friday ordered 36 "ready-to-fly" French-made Rafale fighter jets to modernise country's ageing warplane fleet as neighbouring states upgraded their military hardware.
A joint statement issued after the talks said the two leaders agreed to conclude an Inter-Governmental Agreement for supply of the aircraft on terms that would be "better" than that conveyed as part of a separate process underway, an apparent reference to the ongoing talks that kicked off in 2012 for years for the sale of 126 Rafale fighter jets valued at 12 billion USD.
"The delivery would be in time-frame that would be compatible with the operational requirement of IAF and the aircraft and associated systems and weapons would be delivered on the same configuration as had been tested and approved by Indian Air Force and with a longer maintenance responsibility by France," it added.
Indian military officials have warned that their air force risks a major capability gap opening up with China and Pakistan without new western warplanes or if local defence contractors cannot produce what the military needs in a timely manner.
The deal, another boost for French manufacturer Dassault Aviation after it sealed its long-awaited first export deal to Egypt in February, could be worth about 4 billion euros.
President Hollande said Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian would travel to India soon to finalise the deal.
India and France have already been in exclusive negotiations for three years. The value of a larger 126-plane deal beingnegotiated 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.
A 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.
India already has previous ties with Dassault, having bought Mirage 2000 fighter jets. In March, Dassault delivered two modernised Mirage jets to India.
(with agency inputs)