New Delhi, December 23
The first squadron of the most modern Rafale fighter jets, the newest acquisition for the Indian Air Force, is likely to be set up at the Sarsawa airbase in UP.
The airbase, which is just 50 km crow-flight from the National Capital, is getting prepared to host the squadron and related maintenance facilities, sources in the South Block said.
A team of Dassault Aviation, manufacturer of the Rafale visited the airbase last month to carry out feasibility study and improvements needed for making it home for the Combat jet.
The first squadron is likely to have 12 fighters, including pair of trainers, said the sources.
The IAF was in process of identifying two more airbases for the rest of the squadrons of 24 fighter. India sealed a government-to-government deal with France last September for purchasing 36 aircraft. The Euro 7.89 billion (about Rs 59000 crore) also included a component of Euro 1.8 billion for support and infrastructure supplies, which the Original Equipment Manufacturer is to create. “French experts visited Sarsawa in first half of November and conducted a preliminary survey of the base,” sources in the IAF said, confirming that this base is one of the options being explored for the Rafale.
At present the base is being used for helicopter operations. It will be converted into a fighter base with the active help of the French company.
Under the contract, a nine member team, including three pilots would be trained in France to take possession of the aircraft. They, in turn, will train rest of the crew after their return.
The IAF managed to get an additional guarantee for an additional 60 hours for the trainer Rafale jets with a concession to keep the weapons storage in France for an additional period six months.
The French firm will supply spares for a period of seven years at initial cost, instead of five years, with an option that a new deal will be negotiated for the next five years.
Under the Intergovernmental Agreement signed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, the manufacturer agreed for a guarantee performance-based logistics support which means that 75 per cent of the fleet will be airworthy at any given time.
A 50 per cent offset agreement obligates Dassault to re-invest half the money from the deal in India.
Of the total amount of contract, Euro 3.42 billion is for the cost of the platform; another Euro1.7 billion for India-specific 14 changes on the aircraft; Euro 710 million for weapons package; and Euro 353 million is the cost of logistics support.
The first of the jets from France is to be delivered in 36 months, by September 2019, and the entire lot over the
following 30 months.
New Delhi, December 23