India’s Bold Plan to Purchase 26 Rafale Marine Aircraft, Empowering Naval Capabilities

India’s Defense Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, has granted initial approval for two crucial defense deals with France. The country is set to procure 26 Rafale Marine aircraft, which are the naval variant of the 36 Rafales already in service with the Indian Air Force.

Additionally, the DAC has approved the procurement of three more Scorpene-class diesel-electric submarines, with six submarines already procured by the Navy.

Rafale Marine Aircraft, taking off from a ship
Rafale Marine Aircraft | Via: TIH archives

Ending a competition between Dassault Aviation’s Rafale-M and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, the announcement solidifies the Rafale-M as the chosen aircraft. Both jets had proven their compatibility with the Indian aircraft carriers’ ski-jump flight decks by operating from the Navy’s Shore-Based Test Facility in Goa.

Navy officials concluded that the Rafale-M better met the requirements for integration with existing carriers and offered commonality with the Indian Air Force‘s Rafales.

The contest initially began in 2017 when the Navy issued a Request for Information (RFI) to procure 57 twin-engine carrier fighters. However, the Defense Research Development Organization (DRDO) stepped in, leveraging the progress of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft program.

With successful trials of the LCA’s naval variant on carrier INS Vikramaditya, the DRDO proposed developing an indigenous Twin-Engine Deck-Based Fighter (TEDBF) to operate from Indian carriers.

As an interim solution, the procurement number was later reduced to 26 until the TEDBF is ready for deployment, which is estimated to be around 2034.

Out of the approved Acceptance of Necessity (AoN), 22 single-seater Rafale-Ms and four twin-seater Rafale trainers (not carrier-compatible) are included, according to officials.

The Defense Ministry stated that negotiations with the French Government would determine the purchase price and other terms, taking into account the comparative procurement price of similar aircraft by other countries.

Furthermore, the contract documents will incorporate the integration of Indian-designed equipment and the establishment of a Maintenance, Repair & Operations (MRO) Hub for various systems after due negotiations.

In terms of the Navy’s current fleet, India already operates 45 MIG-29Ks purchased from Russia, which are stationed in Goa. These aircraft operate from the Russian-origin carrier INS Vikramaditya and the indigenous carrier INS Vikrant, commissioned in September last year.

However, the MIG-29Ks have experienced issues with low availability rates and several crashes over the years. It is expected that they will begin phasing out around the mid-2030s.

Interestingly, the joint statement released after bilateral talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron did not mention the Rafale-M.

The French side’s press release focused on the continuation of cooperation regarding fighter jets and submarines, highlighting the timely delivery of the 36 Rafale jets for the Indian Air Force and the success of the P75 program involving six Scorpene submarines.

With the addition of the Rafale-Ms, India will eventually operate a total of 62 Rafales. Considering the significant number and the urgent need to replenish the depleting fighter strength of the Indian Air Force, acquiring more Rafales for the IAF aligns with both logical and operational sense.

This is particularly relevant given the delayed tender for 114 Multi-Role fighters. As for the Navy, the timely completion of the procurement process is crucial, along with France’s ability to deliver the jets promptly, considering their current order book.

The Significance of Rafale Marine Aircraft for Indian Defense

Rafale Marine aircraft to India’s naval fleet serves as a crucial element of strategic deterrence. These advanced jets send a strong message to potential adversaries, demonstrating India’s resolve to protect its national interests and safeguard its maritime boundaries.

In conclusion, the procurement of Rafale Marine aircraft marks a significant milestone for India’s defense preparedness. The advanced capabilities, interoperability, and technological advancements offered by these jets strengthen India’s naval power, enhance maritime security, and contribute to the country’s overall defense strategy. With the Rafale Marine aircraft, India reinforces its commitment to maintaining a strong and capable defense force in the dynamic and ever-evolving maritime landscape.

The procurement of Rafale Marine aircraft holds immense significance for India’s defense capabilities, particularly in the maritime domain. With the Defense Acquisition Council’s recent approval, India is poised to bolster its naval power and enhance its operational readiness.

  1. Strengthening Naval Air Superiority: The introduction of Rafale Marine aircraft strengthens India’s naval air superiority, offering advanced combat capabilities and cutting-edge technology. These state-of-the-art jets are specifically designed to operate from aircraft carriers, ensuring increased reach, precision, and flexibility in naval operations.
  2. Enhanced Maritime Security: The Rafale Marine’s integration with the Indian Navy significantly contributes to bolstering the country’s maritime security. These aircraft provide extended surveillance capabilities, enabling early detection of threats and ensuring timely responses to potential security challenges in the Indian Ocean region.
  3. Superior Combat Capabilities: Rafale Marine aircraft bring a formidable punch to India’s naval forces. With advanced avionics, powerful engines, and a versatile weapons payload, these jets are well-equipped for a wide range of missions, including air defense, ground attacks, and anti-ship operations. The Rafale Marine’s cutting-edge technology and unmatched combat capabilities ensure India’s naval dominance.
  4. Interoperability and Commonality: The Rafale Marine’s commonality with the Indian Air Force’s Rafale jets provides seamless integration and interoperability across the armed forces. This interoperability enhances joint operational capabilities, facilitating coordinated missions and information sharing between the Navy and Air Force, thereby strengthening India’s overall defense posture.
  5. Technological Advancements: The Rafale Marine aircraft incorporate advanced technologies, including state-of-the-art radar systems, superior electronic warfare capabilities, and advanced avionics. These technological advancements not only enhance the aircraft’s combat effectiveness but also contribute to India’s indigenous defense industry by fostering technological know-how and skill development.
  6. Strategic Deterrence: The addition of Rafale Marine aircraft to India’s naval fleet serves as a crucial element of strategic deterrence. These advanced jets send a strong message to potential adversaries, demonstrating India’s resolve to protect its national interests and safeguard its maritime boundaries.