Government likely to order 36 more Rafale fighter jets

New Delhi (IANS) Shrugging off the controversy around the previous deal, the Narendra Modi government has finalized a deal for another 36 Rafale fighter jets, according media reports.

An Indian Defence Research Wing report published on Saturday said the new order will be inked in early 2020.

The Indian Air Force has recently been handed over its first Rafale aircraft from France. The official handing over will take place on October 8 when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will be visiting France.

The purchase of another 36 Rafale fighter jets will take the fleet to 72, which will be key to bolster India's air power, particularly in the aftermath of the Balakot strike, when the IAF went deep inside Pakistan to destroy terror training camps. Ever since, both India and Pakistan have been keen to bolster their air power.

Considering India's huge defence market, official sources here say the US is impressing upon India to buy its Lockheed Martin jets. However, ever since Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman downed an F-16 flown by Pakistan, this aircraft's reputation has gone down by many notches.

Even the F-21 isn't something India is keen to procure, irrespective of the pressure from US. But the Boeing F-18, which has both a carrier as well as an Air force variant, is under consideration of the IAF along with Rafale, say sources.

SAAB's Gripen-E is out of the race, while the Russian Mig-35 and Sukhoi-Su-35 are not expected to give a tough fight to Rafale.

The IAF has decided to procure 18 Su-30 MKI and 21 Mig-29 fighter jets from Russia. Upgradation of 272 aircraft of Su- 30 MKI fleet is also under serious consideration. The recent Russia visit of PM Modi has accelerated this process.

Dassault Aviation, the creator of Rafale, and the US' Boeing, have both extended their offers to help build India's 5th generation AMCA fighter jet, provided they win the lucrative contract to supply fighter aircraft to the Indian Air force.

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