Indian Air Force

Scam in Rafale Deal? A Series Of Allegations, Controversies, and Rejections

Apart from French and Indian Airforce only Qatar and Egypt use Rafale that too in limited numbers. Recently Greece also acquires 18 Rafales after its tension rises with Turkey. Rafale is rejected by many nations but does this fact raises the question of its performance and capability?

Decoding Deal

Dassault Rafale was one of the six bidders of the MMRCA 1.0 (Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft) tender, in which all global giants were competing to bag the contract of 126 aircraft.

Indian MRCA competition - Wikipedia

Among the Lockheed Martin’s F-21s (an advance version of F-16), Boeing’s F/A-18s, Russia’s MiG-35 and Sweden’s Saab’s Gripen, Dassault’s Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon were shortlisted after testing and analysis.

The final winner of the contract was Rafale, but the deal took a controversial turn with time (Indian election). India in September 2016 inked a direct deal with the French government to purchase 36 new Rafale fighter jets in Rs.59,000 Crores or 7.87 billion euro.

The deal was not limited to just 36 aircraft, it includes the weapons package, logistics support, and India specific enhancements. The breakdown of the deal is as follows :

  •  India would acquire 28 single-seat aircraft at a cost of ₹681.7 crores each and 8 dual-seat aircraft at a cost of ₹703.4 crores each.
  • Dassault Aviation is responsible for the supply of all the periodically required stock of spare parts for all 36 aircraft which will cost around ₹13,000.
  • The deal also included tailor-made enhancements for the Indian Air Force at a cost of ₹13,470 crores. 13 Indian specific changes were done for IAF.
  • Weapons package costing of around ₹5,313 crores. This includes many advanced level air to air and air to ground missiles like Meteor, MICA, SCALP, and HAMMER.
  • A performance-based logistics agreement at a cost of ₹2,641 crores for maintaining the availability of aircraft to 75%.
  • The agreement included a 50% “offset clause“, which required the companies involved in the agreement—primarily Dassault, Thales, Safran, and MBDA— with 30% of the total (approximately ₹9,000 crores reserved for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). For more info read Complete Details On India’s Rafale Deal

Allegations and Criticism

Overpriced Deal – Rafale is being criticized for this deal of billions moreover, the per hour flying cost of Rafale is also $25000. The price of the deal is the epicenter of the whole controversy. But when compared to Egypt and Qatar the IAF aircraft costs less, the NDA claims that the cost of all the above-mentioned perks made this deal peak up.

Egypt€5.2 billion for 24 jets (₹ 46,000 crore )₹1917 crore
Qatar€6.3 billion for 24 jets
(₹ 56,000 crore)
₹2,300 crore
India€7.87 billion for 36 Jets (₹ 59000 crore)₹1,638 crore

The Rafale deal struck by the NDA government was 2.86 percent lower than the earlier UPA-era contract that was being negotiated, but it can be cut-shorted even more, the CAG has found.

India, France sign Rafale deal worth €7.8 billion for 36 jets

Performance – Another reason for criticising Rafale by some daily (Eurasian Times) was it’s speed and service ceiling. The speed of Rafale is 1.8 Mach and the service ceiling of around 50000 ft. which is pretty good but when compared to Russian maneuverable and high-speed aircraft it lacks a little bit. The concept of speed and high altitude service was in 3rd generation aircraft, whereas the 4th generation mainly focuses on the multirole capability with advance avionics, radar and armaments. For instance the fifth generation fighter jet F-35 has a maximum speed of 1.6 Mach. In this era of fighter jets speed doesn’t matter much.

Depleting Squadron Strength – The next point is somewhere logical, as only 2 squadrons of Rafale can’t help IAF to boost its power at a great extend, soon the MiG 21, JAGUARS and Mirage 2000 of IAF will start retiring. This void of almost 12 squadrons (220 aircraft) can’t be filled by Rafales.

The above mention problem can be resolve by acquiring 2-3 more squadron of Rafales to maintain the depleting squadron strength, moreover, the indigenous interceptor fighter jet Tejas production should be fastened. The pace of other projects like Tejas MkII and AMCA (Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft) should also be increased.

CAG REPORT – Another problem that is recently highlighted by the CAG report is the Offset contract. In offset contracts, a vendor chosen for a contract is required to invest a certain share of the purchase sum into the importing nation. In India, if defense capital purchases of above Rs. 2,000 crore made through imports. In such cases, the foreign vendor was required to invest at least 30 percent of the value of the purchase in India. In the Rafale case, this was 50%.

The help and assistance to DRDO for the indigenous development of Kaveri engine for LCA ( Light Combat Aircraft Tejas) project was also there in the proposal but “To date, the vendor has not confirmed the transfer of this technology (ToT),” report said.

Safran/ Snemca the French engine firm which also manufactures the M88 engine for Rafale was to help DRDO in Kaveri Project but doesn’t reach conclusion due to pricing and IPR (Intellectual Property Right) issue. 

Kaveri engine revival plans need a proper road map and not a quick fix solutions – Indian Defence Research Wing
Kaveri Engine -Image by IDRW

Allegation of Favouring – Another allegation is regarding the making Reliance Aerospace a part of the deal. In the case of the Rafale deal, the DRDO’s offset share worked out to 30%, while 20% has been allocated to the private sector, including Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL) — Dassault’s joint venture (JV) with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group which lacks experience in this field.

The opposition UPA accused NDA of extending the benefits to industrialist Anil Ambani- the owner of this Reliance Aerospace firm with this overprice deal.

Asked why Dassault had partnered Reliance despite that company’s lack of experience in making defence equipment, Eric Trappier- the CEO of DA said:

Mr Eric Trappier, Chairman & CEO of Dassault Aviation, named new Chairman of GIFAS - Corporate News

“Yes. But I have the experience. I am transferring this know-how and experience to the Indian team. The Indian team has been appointed by a new company Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DARL). They are good for India and the company. So where is the problem?”

“Our teams, both Indian and French, are working well. So I have no worry for the time being.” Trappier also said they chose Reliance as he wanted to be in charge of the industrial process in the company that manufactures parts of the French aircraft in India.

“I invested my money to have facilities here in India and I found partners,” he added.

The Rejection

“Indian media is celebrating the arrival of five Rafales as if they won a war against China. If Rafale is so good, why Oman, Korea, Singapore, Libya, Kuwait, Canada, Brazil, Belgium, UAE, Switzerland, Malaysia refused to buy it. Besides India, only Qatar & Egypt have bought it,” tweeted Ashok Swain, Professor of Peace and Conflict Research, UNESCO Chair of International Water Cooperation.

As Rafale Takes Off for India, Here's Why It Can Become a Deadly Combo With Sukhoi Su-30MKI

The main reason for the rejection and canceling of the Rafale deal was its high price & maintenance and the pressure from the US also resisted many countries form purchasing Rafale. The following countries rejected the Rafales for the following reasons :

  • Belgium: Chose the F-35 over Rafale simply because the F-35 was cheaper to them. The Belgium officials said that the decision came down to price. No questions were raised on performance or capabilities.
  • Brazil: Chose the Gripen over Rafale again because it offered lower unit & operating costs. Rafale costs US$ 20,000 – 25,000 to fly per hour against US$ 4,700 per flight-hour for the Gripen which was a fraction of the cost of the Rafale. Brazil wanted a cost-effective fighter with lesser regard to capabilities.
  • Canada: Dassault withdrew Rafale from the competition due to extensive interoperability and intelligence sharing requirements. France wanted to keep their intelligence capabilities confidential & hence refused to offer the Rafale. No questions were raised on performance or capabilities.
  • Kuwait: Chose the Typhoon over Rafale when the defence minister was threatened by Islamist lawmakers in the Kuwaiti national assembly because he didn’t answer questions from the audit bureau about the contracts. No questions were raised on performance or capabilities.
  • Libya: Gaddafi’s son declared his interest in purchasing Rafale for Libya but never signed a contract. Dassault was also reluctant in providing fighters to a rogue nation. A few years later French Rafales attacked targets in Libya as part of the international military intervention during the 2011 Libyan civil war.
  • Singapore: Chose the American F-15 Eagle over Rafale only because historically they have always wanted to please the USA. Singapore already operates the F-16s & the F-5s which are American aircraft. They want to maintain an all American combat force which not only pleases the USA but also simplifies logistics & facilitates commonality. 
  • South Korea: Chose the American F-15 Eagle over Rafale for the same reason as Singapore, to please the USA. The US has been the biggest military supplier to South Korea since the Korean War ended in the 1950s and has provided all the country’s fighters to date. The Koreans want to keep it that way. 
  • Morocco: Chose the F-16 Fighting Falcon over Rafale as the Rafale was found to be “overly sophisticated and too costly” for Morocco’s needs. In short, the aircraft was too good to be operated for the basic combat needs of Morocco. Again no questions were raised on performance or capabilities.

Rafale was used in the middle east crisis and a few months back a report claiming that the attack on Al-Watiya base of Turkey in Libya was performed by Egypt’s Rafale which makes it a combat-proven platform. Protecting the country’s sovereignty and integrity always costs something. Sometimes blood sometimes money.

Also read Biggest Threat from Pakistan Airforce

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Karan Bisht

A defense aspirant trying to share and gain knowledge with you. Suggestions and corrections are welcomed in comment section.

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