Within days of taking over, India’s new defence minister will get a first hand opportunity to see live action from French fighter jets Rafale, selected by the UPA-II government as the preferred platform for Indian Air Force’s 126 fighter jet deal.

More than two years ago, the government selected Rafale and started the price negotiation process. Initially valued at $10.4 billion (Rs 42,000 crore), the fighter deal may rise to as high as $20 billion at the time of the commercial contract.

The outgoing defence minister A K Antony, however, recently hinted at the government having a relook at the “life cycle cost” offered by the French company Dassault Aviation, which manufactures Rafale.

As the IAF awaits a decision on the 126 medium multirole combat aircraft, four Rafale jets of French Air Force will be in Jodhpur between June 2-13 to participate in Garuda exercise between the two air forces. There will also be a KC-135 tanker from the French side.

The IAF participation will involve four Su-30 MKI, four MiG-21 Bison and four MiG-27 upgrades, said an IAF officer. The last Garuda exercise happened at Istres in France in 2010.

While the Air Force is likely to invite the new defence minister to visit Jodhpur, the delay in procuring 126 fighter will figure in the presentation, which IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha is likely to give to the new Prime Minister and Defence Minister.


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