Indian Navy prepares to acquire 26 Rafale M fighters from Dassault Aviation

Dassault Rafale

The Indian Navy is preparing to acquire 26 Rafale M fighters from Dassault Aviation as part of the Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighters (MRCBF) program, thus reinforcing its naval defense capabilities. This strategic choice will provide India with a fleet of modern, interoperable fighters, while strengthening Franco-Indian cooperation in the field of military aviation.

The Indian Navy has taken a crucial step forward by entering the final phase of negotiations for the purchase of 26 Rafale M fighters from Dassault Aviation, in a major boost to its naval defense strategy. The decision follows the Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighters (MRCBF) competitive selection program, in which the French Rafale M triumphed over the American Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

Strengthening the fighter fleet for INS Vikrant

The main objective of the tender was to replace the aging Russian Mikoyan MiG-29K Fulcrum-D fighters, in order to equip the INS Vikrant, India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, with a fleet of more modern, high-performance fighters. The decision to proceed with this acquisition was approved by India’s Defense Acquisition Council shortly before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Paris, where he was the guest of honor for the French national holiday on July 14, 2023.

Dassault Rafale

Strengthening Indian naval aviation capabilities

The Dassault Aviation Rafale M is a multirole fighter developed by the French aerospace company Dassault Aviation. With over 80% common features with the French Air Force’s 36 Rafale B and C aircraft, the choice of the Rafale M will enable India to make substantial savings in training, repairs and maintenance, thanks to the similarity between the fleets.

The F4 standard, delivered for the first time to the French Air Force on March 2, 2023, offers advanced features such as improved radar and sensor systems, enhanced avionics, improved network warfare capabilities thanks to new satellite and intra-patrol links, as well as increased interoperability with allied forces.

Ongoing negotiations and future consequences

Upcoming negotiations will cover various aspects, including industrial collaboration between Dassault Aviation and its Indian counterpart, HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited), financial arrangements between the governments and future specifications for the Indian Rafale M. The Indian navy is committed to bringing its first two-seat shipborne fighters into service within 36 months. Consequently, the contract is due to be signed in the first quarter of 2024.

Alongside this acquisition, India is also considering integrating the Rafale into the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) program, with the possibility of acquiring 114 new fighters for the Indian Air Force. This initiative would further strengthen the Rafale’s presence in the Indian military aviation theater, and reinforce Franco-Indian defense cooperation.

Impact on national security and international cooperation

The acquisition of Dassault Aviation’s Rafale M by the Indian Navy has major implications for India’s national security. By replacing the old MiG-29Ks with these modern fighters, India is strengthening its naval defense capability, which is essential for protecting its maritime interests in the Indian Ocean and beyond. The Rafale Ms will also offer enhanced air interception capability, strengthening the country’s deterrence and air defense.

Internationally, this acquisition testifies to India’s confidence in French military aviation technology and expertise. The growing cooperation between the French and Indian aerospace industries also strengthens the defense ties between the two countries. France and India are thus increasingly able to collaborate on joint defense and security projects.

Cost savings and operational benefits

One of the main advantages of acquiring the Rafale M is its cost-effectiveness. With a large number of features in common with the French Air Force’s Rafale B and C, maintenance, pilot training and fleet management will be greatly simplified. India will save valuable resources while maintaining a high level of operational competence.

What’s more, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale Ms are renowned for their versatility. They can be deployed in a variety of missions, from air defense to ground strike, making them valuable assets for the Indian Navy. Their ability to operate from the INS Vikrant deck will enhance the scope and flexibility of India’s naval operations.

Dassault Rafale

Future prospects

The Indian Navy’s acquisition of the Rafale M opens up new opportunities for the Indian Navy. It strengthens India’s ability to protect its maritime interests and play an active role in regional security. In addition, increased cooperation with France in the defense field offers prospects for industrial and technological development.

This acquisition could also have an impact on relations between India and other international players. The Rafale M will reinforce India’s credibility as a leading player in the Indo-Pacific region, which could influence geopolitical dynamics in the region.

The Indian Navy is preparing to take a major step forward in strengthening its naval defense capabilities by acquiring 26 Rafale M fighters from Dassault Aviation. This strategic decision testifies to India’s confidence in cutting-edge French technology, and strengthens Franco-Indian cooperation in the defense field. The economic and operational benefits of this acquisition are significant, while paving the way for new opportunities for India on the international stage. The Indian Navy is gearing up for a safer and more efficient future thanks to these state-of-the-art fighters.

War Wings Daily is an independant magazine.