Unexpected windfall for France with Rafale?

It was surprising news from Paris about the Indian govt finally settling on the purchase of some 60-odd aircraft as a via media between ditching the entire deal and continue struggling with Dassault for a compromise solution for the lot of 126 MMRCA. As of last night, HAL at least was sure that while their differences with Dassault had been sorted out, the glitch at the PNC (price negotiation committee) level was holding up the deal, and because the problem was with escalated cost of both the France-sourced and HAL license-manufactured aircraft, there was a fatalistic acceptance of the inevitable, meaning HAL wouldn’t get to produce any Rafales.

This new turn of events, it may be deduced, was apparently something derived by the PMO that Narendra Modi, perhaps, assented to in line with MEA’s view that Paris needed to be mollified with bulk purchase of the Rafale to maintain goodwill with the French govt. Besides, it is a add-on to the initially floated proposal for some 24 Rafales bought off the shelf to stop the squawking about fast-depleting fighter squadrons by the IAF brass.This deduction because Parrikar’s MOD could not have turned around a full 180 degrees after the minister had shown his partiality for the Su-30MKI option, with the HAL Nasik produced aircraft available at around $80-$100 million per fully loaded plane. Now compare that with the $4bn India will be dishing out for 60 Rafales, i.e., at almost $50 million unit cost. Except this figure is just for the platform with no bells and whistles and no onboard armaments, and certainly no AESA radar. Once you begin totting up the costs for each of these items, the final bill for each of these Rafales would be nearer $200mn. For Dassault and France this is surely an unexpected windfall, something they could’t have possibly even imagined coming to pass, because Dassault gets to produce all these aircraft and no nonsense about TOT, etc involved by bringing HAL into the picture. The French combat aircraft industry pivoting on the Rafale, which was down to producing just 11 of these planes annually, will now be able to ramp up production and keep itself in the clover for another 8-10 years thanks to the infernally stupid decision by the GOI.

This is ultimately a regression which pretty much torpedoes the “Make in India” thrust of the BJP govt, which by resuscitating the “meeting the immediate need”-principle for acquisitions takes the country back to ad hoc procurement policies that ended up making India the largest arms importer in the world. The IAF brass may be happy. But consider the deleterious effects of yet another type of weapons platform added to the fleet. At last count IAF had 27 different types of aircraft in its inventory. Now add another one, and compound the logistics problem of handling a completely new aircraft and maintenance setup, requiring the retraining a whole bunch of people (other than pilots) in France, and then total up the costs. For God’s sake, is there no one with any sense of the tens of billions of euros involved? And has the Modi regime given up on responsible expenditure and been herded into buying the IAF line that all will be lost without the Rafale? The truth is much will be lost with Rafale in the IAF because now we’ll have to contend with an upset Moscow, which has been liberal in onpassing its frontline armaments and technology that Western suppliers will not part with for love or money.The manner in which the seller France stuck to its guns in the price negotiation, compelling the buyer New Delhi to backpedal is evidence enough of that.

Let’s hope that this story is only a kite being flown in the media by interested parties. But should it prove to be true then, boy, are we flying blind into a squall!

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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16 Responses to Unexpected windfall for France with Rafale?

  1. mnas dhar says:

    Was expecting this article as soon as i heard news of Modi trying to salvage the deal. I dont know the techno-commercial details so have to accept the authors views. However HAL not being able to produce these jets at home and no TOT is just a bitter pill that we have to swallow. Not to say the French havent acted smart, but absorption of complex technologies for radar, engine and avionics is something our defense labs have to learn before demanding TOT. We should not worry about Russia so much as France has been equally useful in high technology areas especially in space. I think they had launched our only dedicated military satellite on there heavy duty Ariane rocket besides keeping a tab on what the Americans were doing in Diego-Garcia and IOR in general. Besides the Russians are the ones who are acting pricey on the FGFA program not ready to share stealth and super cruise technologies.

    • The difference is Russians were paid in kind up until the demise of the Soviet Union. From the beginning though no supplier has been more voracious in demanding excessive monies than France for any and all hardware, and no country has reneged more routinely on TOT contracts. Add up the costs of this.

  2. Virat says:

    Would you share LCA technology with Sri lanka or kenya? Think about it. I guess we have to give Modi the benefit of the doubt here. People don’t realize that TOT is not something you part with easily. No white country will give you any TOT that is not more than 40 yrs old. (yes , given that jet engine tech is even older than that and we can’t fabricate them small enough to put them into a aircraft).
    This has exposed us. But its good that a person like Modi is at the helm. If anyone can make sense of how to get out of this beggar situation it has to be him

    • The point on technology is precisely what I have been making for years. There’s no option other than togenerate it yourself even if it means starting from the wheel up, as it were.

  3. siddappa says:

    Absolutely disappointing.
    God’s legs are made of clay.
    Whoever sits on “dilli ki gaddi”, looses sheen faster than enamel paint.
    We can’t get better than Parrikar & Modi to man our defenses & they too toed the blind line.

    less bang for full-bucks is congress-way.
    & we voted for Congress mukt bharat.

    Alas, the saying “You become like the one, you keep fighting against” has turned true.
    Fighting MMS for 10 years, has fatigued Modi into becoming one

    Worst part is celebrating this total surrender of our plane programme.
    Only sensible thing seems now, is to disband all related R&D activity.

  4. pd says:

    All is not lost. Manufacturing the Rafales would not have taught HAL/DRDO anything.(If that was the case, one would think we could manufacture something after years of building Migs/Su 30MKI and Jaguars). What we really need is help with the LCA. If Modi is as smart as most people think he is, he would have got the TOT to help with the LCA.

    • Well, yes, that’d help but that’s not what Modi has apparently negotiated.

      • pd says:

        I doubt that Modi is that diabolical, but one way to win a second term is to have a short sharp war with someone. 2 squadrons of the Rafale arriving just in time to give someone a bloody nose possibly. totally in the realm of speculation, but this decision in isolation without knowing what is to come is mystifying to say the least. We have not strengthened our bargaining position in any way. So if we get nothing beyond 36 jets , can’t see how this helps. Not a Modi bhakt by any means, but I don’t really think he is the type to hand out contracts to make friends.

  5. Raju says:

    Modi is not stupid. He has balanced out the HAL manufacturing and poor maintenance which has taken lives of great IAF personeel. Why do people forget that India has lost precious lives of these IAF people as manufacturing is not of the required precision? Add to that the costs of planes that went down. Man hours lost and then comes enquiry with no outcome except politics by cheap politicians.
    Modi has made conscious effort to get genuine planes. Rafale was originally accepted in 2012 so it was NOT a new decision by him. Imagine how much man hours were put at work to finalize this contract. So he had to go ahead and he did wisely in interest of nation. He has pressure as neighboring China plays mischief and we need to build a strong image so they behave sensibly.

    Think beyond economics too. The HAL manufactured planes come cheaper then import but what about the deteriorated and cheap parts? What about the under hand deals which costs approx the same price as import! That’s the reason Modi avoided this route and the underhand deals and got genuine plane for India so the Jaabaaz Pilots can fly to protect the country.

  6. sudeep says:

    > While the more advanced Su-30, as Parrikar noted, with full ordnance load comes in at less than half the price.

    The Sukhois we fly have no AESA, no stealth, no super cruise, no sensor fusion.. The rafales weigh 40% less and carry almost as much payload as the Sukhois, thereby having a much better fuel economy. What Su30MKI version is this that is more advanced than the Rafale?

    The ToT is a mirage (no puns intended). We got the ToT of Su30MKIs. Can we make a different version of this plane today? Its been 17 years since ToT, we are stuck with the same old plane. Why would this particular ToT be any different?

    And after this ToT, Sukhois are hanger queens with 56% availability.. while the much older Mirage fleet has 75%+ availability. We also did ToT of Branhmos.. Can we make even the airframe of that missile today?

    Only the LCA Mk1, Mk2, AMCA etc. where the desiigners, engineers and manufacturing is Indian does technology mean anything.

    • @Sudeep — Many valuable points. The fact that TOT has so far been a waste is something I have time and again stressed in these columns and in my other writings, which is why I have been recommending that designated pvt sector Cos. benefit from all TOT and offsets provisions. The fact tho’is that Parrikar himself has said that with improved spares condition, etc, the Su-30 availability would by end-2015 go up to 75% availability. In any case, even the prevailing 56% you mention ain’t bad. considering anything around 60% serviceability is an acceptable level comparable with what prevails in most major air forces. And true too that the Indian pvt sector designed and manufactured combat aircraft and aviation technologies, etc, not DPSU license-produced hardware, are the only hope for the future.

  7. Mistake ?? Decide yourself.
    Comparisons ..

    1) Surprising the enemy without being surprised – F-22, far from being the least visible, is the largest of all fighters compared. Smallest is Saab’s Gripen, while Rafale, Typhoon and F-35 are halfway between them.
    RATING: 1. Rafale, 2. Typhoon, 3. F-22, 4. F-35, 5. Gripen, 6. F-16, 7. F-18, 8. F-15.

    2) Outnumbering the enemy in the air –
    RATING : 1. Gripen, 2. Rafale, 3. F-18, 4. F-16, 5. Typhoon, 6. F-15, 7. F-22, 8. F-35.

    Outmaneuvering the enemy -Roll onset rate is determined by aircraft’s responsitivity to control inputs, which includes efficiency of control surfaces as well as roll inertia.
    a) Roll onset rate at angle of attack = Rafale > Gripen > F-22 > F-35 > F-16 > Typhoon > F-18 > F-15
    b) Instantaneous turn rate = Rafale > Gripen > Typhoon > F-22 > F-15 > F-16 > F-18 > F-35
    c) pitch onset rate / pitch rate = Rafale > Gripen > F-22 > Typhoon > F-16 > F-18 > F-35 > F-15
    d) Acceleration = F-22 > Rafale > Typhoon > F-15 > F-16 > Gripen > F-18 > F-35
    e) sustained turn rate = F-22 > Typhoon > Rafale > F-15 > F-16 > Gripen > F-18 > F-35

    RATING : 1. Rafale, 2. Gripen, 3. F-22, 4. Typhoon, 5. F-16, 6. F-15, 7. F-35, 8. F-18.

    4) Outlasting the enemy- Persistence is determined by fuel fraction; fuel
    fraction for fighters is 0,33 for Rafale C, 0,31 for Typhoon, 0,28 for Gripen C, 0,29 for F-22, 0,38 for F-35A, 0,29 for F-15C, 0,27 for F-16C, and 0,31 for F-18C.

    RATING : 1. Rafale, 2. Typhoon, 3. F-22, 4. F-16C, 5. Gripen C, 6. F-15C, 7. F-35A, 8. F-18C.

    5) Achieving reliable kills – Main weapons used by fighters are BVR missiles, WVR missiles and guns.

    Guns : Rafale 5, Gripen/Typhoon 4, F-15/16/18 3, F-35 2, F-22 1.
    WVR missiles: Gripen/Typhoon 5, Rafale 4, F-15/16/18 3, F-22/35 2.
    BVR missiles : Rafale 5, others 4.

    RATING – 1. Rafale, 2. Gripen, Typhoon, 3. US teen-series fighters, 4. F-35, 5. F-22.

    ANYONE has any problem with RAFALE ?

  8. Raju says:

    Good discussion Sujay/Bharat Karnad ji,
    I thin with MODI Govt the pvt companies are making beeline as the govt wants to involve the Prvt sector as mentioned by MOdi earlier on his “Make In India” campaign.
    Many prvt companies are tying up with Foreign companies to manufacture defense products but as you said earlier can India make the airframe of missile? which shows how much ground to cover to match up international competition.

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