The decision to buy nearly three and a half squadrons of Rafale jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF) was taken at the highest political level hours before Prime Minister Modi embarked on his three-nation tour on Thursday, the sources added.
Under the new proposal, the entire process for procuring 126 combat jets would be scrapped, sources revealed. A new G-to-G (government-to-government) contract is likely to be negotiated between New Delhi and Paris to buy the Rafale jets in flyaway conditions.
By going for a G-to-G contract India is also likely to drive a hard bargain with the French and lower the price of the aircraft. By ordering 60 aircraft to be manufactured in France itself, the government is also hoping to skirt the tricky issue of guaranteeing quality of work under Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), designated as the Lead Production Agency in India.
According to top sources, besides buying Rafales, the government will push HAL hard to deliver at least three squadrons of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Mark II as quickly as possible, procure more Sukhois from Russia and also support the FGFA project in a big way to make up for the 12 squadrons of fighter jets which are likely to retire over the next four years.