IAF hopeful of Rafale deal this year

SP's MAI - - SP’S EX­CLU­SIVES -

With con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions on in full swing, the In­dian Air Force is hopeful that a multi­bil­lion­dol­lar deal for 126 Rafale fight­ers will be signed be­fore the end of this fi­nan­cial year. IAF chief Air Chief Mar­shal N.A.K. Browne, in Ban­ga­lore, said, “Ne­go­ti­a­tions are on. We should be able to fin­ish the con­tract this fi­nan­cial year. It is a com­plex process. We are dis­cussing off­sets, trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy, HAL’s role and the cost. It is pro­gress­ing well.” The Air Chief’s words will come as com­fort to Das­sault Aviation at a time when there has been some spec­u­la­tion about Eurofighter mak­ing an ef­fort to get back into the com­pe­ti­tion. Any re­open­ing of the com­pe­ti­tion has been cat­e­gor­i­cally ruled out by the MoD and IAF at this time. The MoD re­cently said that its of­fi­cials were not in dis­cus­sion — of­fi­cial or un­of­fi­cial — with any com­pany other than Das­sault, in an at­tempt to quell spec­u­la­tion that Eurofighter and Rosoboronex­port had both said that they were in dis­cus­sions with the MoD and had rea­son to believe that the MM­RCA com­pe­ti­tion could be re­booted. Ac­cord­ing to sources, ne­go­ti­a­tions with Das­sault are pro­gress­ing smoothly, even though there are sev­eral points that still need clar­i­fi­ca­tion. Sources in Das­sault said they were con­fi­dent that a deal would be signed be­fore the year was out.

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