Possibly not the single most exciting thing to happen this week, but the most complicated, frustrating, and ridiculous story of military acquisition of the last decade seems finally to have come to fruition:
The first Rafales have finally arrived in India, after an extraordinarily long and bumpy process. Dassault handed over three aircraft to India in November, although these remained in France for training purposes. Five aircraft left France earlier this week, and arrived in India after a brief stop in the UAE. The first five aircraft include three single seat and two twin seat fighters.
India’s effort to acquire Dassault Rafale fighters from France is an epic worthy of Turold or Valmiki. Originally, India sought a co-productive arrangement with France that would have included technology transfer and a total of at least 126 fighters. This would have modernized both the existing stocks of the Indian Air Force and the technical capabilities of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, which would have assembled over a hundred of the aircraft. The big deal was replaced by a small deal, in which France would supply 36 aircraft “off the shelf” without any technology transfer. Even that deal ran into trouble, with India hedging and delaying before finally giving the formal go ahead in the autumn of 2016.
Worth noting that Boeing is also planning to make India a big target for F-15EX exports. Which on the one hand is great because the F-15EX is terrific, but on the other hand will continue to make the Indian Air Force look like a multinational Century Series, with numerous frontline fighters and all of the logistical problems that come with that.