Indian Navy in Final Talks for Acquisition of Upgraded Dassault Rafale M Fighters

The Indian Navy is in the final stages of negotiations with the French Directorate General of Armaments for the purchase of 26 Dassault Aviation Rafale M fighters, upgraded to the F4 standard. This development follows the issuance of a Letter of Request (LoR) and a competitive selection process under the Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighters (MRCBF) program. 


The Rafale M was chosen over the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The aim is to replace the outdated Russian Mikoyan MiG-29K Fulcrum-D on India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant, with a more advanced fighter fleet. The Defense Acquisition Council of India approved the acquisition just before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Paris on July 14, 2023, as France’s guest of honor for their national holiday. 

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The Rafale M shares over 80% of its features with the 36 Rafale B and C jets used by the Indian Air Force, which will result in cost savings in training, repairs, and maintenance due to fleet commonality. The F4 standard first delivered to the French Air and Space Force on March 2, 2023, boasts advanced radar and sensor systems, improved avionics, enhanced network-centric warfare capabilities through new satellite and intra-patrol links, and increased interoperability with allied forces. 


The negotiations will cover various aspects including industrial collaboration between Dassault Aviation and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), financial arrangements between the governments, and future specifications of the Indian Rafale M. The Indian Navy aims to have its first twin-jet fighters operational within 36 months, with contract signing expected in early 2024. The Rafale is also being considered for the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) tender for the potential acquisition of 114 new fighters for the Indian Air Force.

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