During the Cold War (or, more precisely, «during the First Cold War», as my friend says) India has worked closely with the Russian military-industrial complex. However, in the beginning of the XXI century, this old friendship cracked.
First of all, after Russian aircraft carrier Baku was deactivated in 1996 (it was too expensive to operate on a post-Cold War budget), Russia and India signed a deal for the sale of the ship. Baku was free, while India would pay $800 million for the upgrade and refit of the ship, as well as an additional $1 billion for the aircraft and weapons systems.
The announced delivery date for INS Vikramaditya was 2008; however, India finally agreed to pay an additional $1.2 billion for the project – more than doubling the original cost. Furthermore, in July 2008, it was reported that Russia wanted to increase the price by $2 billion, blaming unexpected cost overruns on the deteriorated condition of the aircraft carrier and citing a «market price» for a new ship of $3-4 billion. On 17 September 2012, malfunctions were detected during sea trials. According to official Russian report, seven out of eight steam boilers of the propulsion machinery were out of order! Because of this, the deadline of the hand over this ship to the Indian Navy was postponed again until October 2013, and INS Vikramaditya was formally commissioned only on November 16, 2013. In May 2014, the carrier was declared operationally deployed along with its embarked air group.
Secondly, in 1996 the Indian government decided to mass-produce the new main battle tank at Indian Ordnance Factory’s production facility in Avadi. The Arjun project experienced serious budget overruns; nevertheless, in March 2010 the Arjun tank was pitted against the T-90 in comparative trials and performed well. The Arjun MBT Mk-II is an advanced third generation main battle tank; it had outclassed the T-90 during the trials.
Thirdly, in February 2011, French Rafales flew demonstrations in India, including air-to-air combat against Su-30MKIs. On January 31, 2012, the Indian Air Force (IAF) announced the Rafale as the preferred bidder in the competition with the Eurofighter Typhoon. The contract for 126 Rafales, services, and parts could be worth as much as $20 billion.
Unfortunately, the deal was stalled from disagreements over the fighter production in India. As per the RFP issued in 2007, the first 18 jets are to be imported and the rest manufactured under licence by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). According to the sources, French Dassault was reluctant to stand guarantee for the 108 fighters to be built by HAL as far as liquidity damages and timelines for production are concerned. This, the sources said, is the critical issue that is delaying the final inking.
At last, on December 1, 2014 French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian raised the issue of the multi-billion dollar deal for 126 Rafale combat aircraft during talks with his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar who said it would be «resolved in a fast-tracked manner». The Defence Ministry is of the view that the guarantee clause was part of the Air Staff Qualitative Requirements (ASQR) under the RFP that was issued. Dassault had agreed to the ASQR and hence was chosen the winner, the sources maintained.
Dassault Rafale, which would replace India’s Russian-made fleet of MiG-21 and MiG-27 planes, had stood over combat aircraft manufactured by rivals like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. At present, India has only 34 fighter jet squadrons (16-18 planes in each) against the projected need of 45 squadrons.
Specifications and performance data
Wing span: 10.90 m
Length: 15.30 m
Height: 5.30 m
Overall empty weight: 10 t (22,000 lbs) class
Max. take-off weight: 24.5 t (54,000 lbs)
Fuel (internal): 4.7 t (10,300 lbs)
Fuel (external): up to 6.7 t (14,700 lbs)
External load: 9.5 t (21,000 lbs)
Max. thrust: 2 x 7.5 t
Limit load factors: -3.2 g/+9 g
Max. speed (high altitude/low): M = 1.8 (1,912 km/h)/750 knots
Approach speed: less than 120 knots
Landing ground run: 450 m (1,500 ft) without drag-chute
Service ceiling: 15,235 m (50,000 ft)