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Rafale Enhancements: Congress Charge And The Key Changes

The opposition has questioned the government for changing the requirement of fighters down to 36 from 126 and is arguing that it paid much more for the deal.

The government has come under fresh fire from the Congress on the Rafale deal, with the opposition party accusing defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman of ‘lying again’ on the procurement. The Congress allegations centre around India-specific enhancements of the fighter jet — tweaks done for its optimum performance in Indian conditions — with the charge that these were also part of the originally negotiated deal. The opposition has questioned the government for changing the requirement of fighters down to 36 from 126 and is arguing that it paid much more for the deal. ET Explains:

What are these India-specific enhancements for Rafale? 

In both the UPA-negotiated deal and the one that was finally signed by the BJP, the Rafale jets had to be modified for Indian conditions. At least 13 specific enhancements had to be carried out, including a helmet-mounted display, an Infra Red Search and Track (IRST) sensor, an electronic Jammer pod and the ability to operate from high-altitude airfields. These enhancements were specified in the deal being negotiated under the UPA government too.

Did it cost more to do these enhancements under the BJP Rafale deal? 

The design and development cost of these enhancements — which is a nonrecurring cost — was fixed at `9,855 crore. Now, this cost would be the same for 36 jets or for the larger order of 126 that was being considered. So, the larger order of 126 jets would be cheaper per plane on these India-specific costs as it would be amortised across the fleet. However, defence ministry officials who compare the two deals claim that even with amortisation, the BJP negotiated deal is `59 crore cheaper per plane. They say this is based on the calculations that it would have been much more expensive to produce these jets in India than to directly import them from France.

What is difference between the UPA and the BJP-negotiated Rafale deal?

Beyond the India-specific enhancements that were part of both deals, the BJP negotiated a special weapons package for the fighter jets. These included the Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile, the best in its class and the SCALP air-to-ground missile with a range of over 300 km. Besides, more updated communication systems are to be fitted on-board the new Rafale, which will require a change to the airframe itself as a new sensor will be attached. These enhancements require a re-certification of the jets in terms of performance and air safety, a time consuming affair.




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