Wednesday, February 1, 2012

From Ouragans to Rafales: sixty years of partnership

'Rafale' in French means a 'gust of wind'.
So, 'rafales' have finally prevailed over 'typhoons'. 
It is a great news for France, but also good news for India because the French fighter plane has been selected on merit and not for political reasons, which is a healthy trend. 
The Rafale was certainly the best existing plane on the market and the most able to qualify as a 'multi-role' combat aircraft. 
It was amply demonstrated during the operations in Libya where the Rafales and the Mirages managed extremely well, with a large number of daily sorties. 
President Sarkozy has been unusually restrained in his reaction; he just said the final negotiations will be long (which is true, particularly for the transfer of technology). One remembers that a couple of years ago, he had announced the sales of Rafales to Brazil before the contract was signed and later President Lula had to back out under intense pressure (some observers say, blackmail) from the United States.
Here also Washington tried  hard to sale its F/A-18 Super Hornet (from Boeing),  F-16 Super Viper (from Lockheed) and even its not yet operational F-35. In the process, the US Ambassador to India had even to resign for his failure to clinch the 'deal of the century'.
Interestingly, The Times announced a few days back that the "Ministry of Defence concerns over the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter have led to military chiefs looking at other fast jets for the UK's aircraft carrier. ...Admiral Sir Trevor Soar, the current commander-in-chief fleet, said concerns were growing about rising costs and delays in the JSF programme, something now worsened by order cuts from the US. Soar, who was addressing defence companies at the ADS Maritime Interest Group, reportedly said the UK might not receive the $100m per piece F-35 jets until a decade after the delivery of the carrier, currently set for 2019."
The British Admiral said that the Royal Navy was considering the Rafale and the US F-18 Super Hornet to give Britain an 'interim aircraft capability'. 
The news was later denied, but it certainly shows that a turn of the tide in favour of the French plane.
Rafale has always been the favorite of the IAF, and it is good for India's defense preparedness that the technical aspects finally prevailed.
The selection of the Rafales marks the beginning of a long and renewed  partnership between France and India which started in the 1950's.
I post below extracts of an article written several years ago, on the Indo-French relations in the defense sector .
Historians usually consider the period between 1947 and 1962 as the first phase of the Indo-French relations. Year 1962 was for France the year it constitutionally departed from the subcontinent and for India, it marked the end of the dream of a Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai relationship.
Though the relations were not too cordial between France and India, as early as January 1947, the French Government asked for a ten-year extension of the 1945 agreement permitting military air ferries to fly across India. Nehru, the Interim Prime Minister noted: “Public opinion in India is very much against the use of force by the French Government against the people of Indochina and anything which we do to facilitate the use of this force is bound to be resented and vigorously criticised.“ On July 16, 1947 an Agreement on Air Services between India and France was nevertheless signed.
By the end of year, an interesting development occurred. Nehru was “anxious to help in every way in developing atomic energy in India.” He decided to unofficially send Dr. Homi J. Bhabha to enquire about the possibility of collaboration for the peaceful use atomic energy: “In view of the fact that India possesses very large resources of minerals suitable for the generation of atomic power, India is destined to play an important part in research on atomic energy in cooperation with other countries. We would like to welcome this cooperation, more specially in Great Britain, Canada and France.” Homi Bhabha had extremely cordial contacts with Frédéric Joliot-Curie and Raoul Dautry, the first heads of the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), founded by de Gaulle in 1945. At that time, Joliot-Curie was interested by two materials: beryllium and thorium. Nehru, interested in the program ‘Atoms for Peace’, saw the nuclear collaboration as discriminatory. Why countries with colonial territories should use raw material looted from these colonies for their research, he thought.
‘Discrimination’ will remain at the core of the Indian position in the decades to come .
The French armament sales during this first phase were relatively large despite the factors mentioned above. Though the Indian Air Force did not directly take part in the conflict with China, 49 Ouragan fighter planes (produced by Dassault Aviation), 110 Mystère and 12 Alizée (of Bréguet Aviation) were in service in 1962. Further, 150 AMX 13 light tanks were sold to India after an agreement signed in 1957. The total arms sales from France between 1950 and 1962 amounted to $ 794 millions according to SIPRI database , which made it the second most important after UK ($ 4,612 millions) and before USSR ($ 612 millions) and the US ($ 248 millions)
On September 22, 1962, General de Gaulle received Nehru in Paris. Nehru first congratulated him for the settlement of the Algerian crisis as well as the ratification of the cession of the French Establishments in India. De Gaulle replied that he was happy to see that India had dealt successfully with some of the issues on which the West had doubts at the time of independence. At the end of the meeting, Nehru pointed out at the danger coming from China “which spent most of its resources for preparing the bomb. …It is for them a question of prestige” explained a worried Indian Minister who however did not request the French President for armaments.
Four weeks after the meeting in Paris, the Chinese attack India.
On October 27, Nehru called French Ambassador Jean-Paul Garnier to tell him that it is “an invasion pure and simple”. On November 30, Ambassador Ali Javar Jung met de Gaulle in Paris to thank him for his support. The French President had written to Nehru a few days earlier: “We can not approve that border claims are settled by military actions which is in any case disproportionate with the proclaimed objectives [of the Chinese]”.
During this encounter with the Indian Ambassador, the General conveyed to him what would be the core of the French position for several decades. He told Jung: “France is the friend of India, not its ally and therefore will not provide any [military] support which in any case, has not been requested by India.” Paris was prepared to provide some military supplies to Delhi (and this in consultation with the US), but was not ready to intervene. For India, the war marked (at least temporarily) a U-turn in its foreign policy. The Indian Ambassador admitted to de Gaulle: “it throws the entire non-aligned policy of India back into question”.
In the years to come, Delhi would remain ‘non-aligned’ while in fact leaning towards the Soviet Union. The responsibility lies partly with the US and the UK. When India was down and bleeding, Averell Harriman, the US Assistant Secretary of State and Duncan Sandys, the British Secretary for Commonwealth Relations, visited India. They arrived two days after Beijing had unilaterally declared a ceasefire. They “made clear their governments' willingness to provide military assistance to India but pointed out the related need for negotiations to resolve the Kashmir dispute.”
Six rounds of talks on Kashmir between Pakistan and India followed the US and UK Envoys’ visit. The Western governments discovered that not only had the exercise failed, but Ayub Khan had already begun a dangerous flirtation with China . By that time, de Gaulle had started looking eastward; he sent one of his ministers, Edgar Faure to visit the Middle Kingdom.
The article is available on the site of the Indian Defence Review.

Dassault Aviation bags $11-billion order to supply fighter jets to the Indian Air Force

Economic Times Bureau
1 Feb, 2012,
NEW DELHI: French defence supplier Dassault Aviation, whose Mirage 2000 fighters played a vital role for India during the Kargil conflict in 1999, has emerged as the lowest bidder for the $11-billion ( 55,000 crore) contract to supply 126 fighter jets to the Indian Air Force. It will now enter into exclusive price negotiations with the government and contract for the world's second-largest open military tender is likely to be inked next fiscal.
Dassault's Rafale fighter edged out the Eurofighter Typhoon in the final round of a prolonged selection process that saw jets from American firms Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Russia's MiG 35 and Swedish jet Saab Gripen getting eliminated in technical evaluation rounds. EADS, the European consortium that makes Airbus passenger jets, is a major shareholder in both Eurofighter and Dassault Aviation.
While the defence ministry made no official announcement, executives of Dassault and Eurofighter have been informed of the decision, which was welcomed by French President Nicholas Sarkozy.
"The negotiation of the contract will begin very soon with the full support of French authorities. It will include major transfers of technology guaranteed by the French state," he said. The massive contract going to a French firm comes as a boost to Sarkozy, who faces elections in April in the backdrop of a stuttering economy.
Defence minister AK Antony told agencies that no deal would be signed before the end of March. It will need clearance from the Defence Acquisition Council and will be ultimately signed off by the Cabinet Committee on Security headed by the Prime Minister.
The decision is far from a purely commercial one as it involves years of strategic cooperation. In April, US Ambassador Timothy Roemer resigned a day after it emerged that American fighters were out of the reckoning in the contest.
The contract for the medium multi-role combat jets comes with a 50% offset clause, which means half the value of the contract must be spent in India. This will spell good news for public and private defence contractors.
"This deal, along with the new offset policy retrospected, will get $6 billion through offsets and $6 billion through technology transfers. It will be a force multiplier for small and medium enterprises tapping industries such as defence, aerospace and homeland security," said S Ravinarayanan, the chairman of Axis Aerospace & amp; Technologies and head of industry lobby group Ficci's task force on defence offsets.
For Dassault Aviation, whose stock went up 21% on Tuesday, the deal is a shot in the arm. Having failed to find a foreign buyer thus far, French officials had gone on record saying the programme will wind up if the project fails to land export orders. This would not have happened before 2021, when the last of the 180 planes ordered by the French Air Force is scheduled to be delivered.
With this deal, the French have consolidated their presence in the Indian defence space. In 2005, French firm Thales won a 19,000 crore deal to supply Scorpene submarines.
Indian Air Force's relationship with Dassault Aviation dates back to the 1950s and 1960s, when the French company's Ouragan and Mystere fighter planes were used here. Since the 1980s, Dassault's Mirage fighters have been flying for the Indian Air Force. In July last year, the government approved a $3-billion deal to upgrade its Mirage 2000 fleet and to purchase more than 400 air-to-air missiles from MBDA, a European consortium based in Paris. These missiles can also be used with Rafale.
Dassault Aviation is majority-owned by the Dassault Group, which also owns the influential French daily Le Figaro. French entrepreneur and politician Serge Dassault, who leads the group, was convicted of paying bribes to obtain a commercial contract in Belgium in 1998.
In a statement, the losing consortium expressed disappointment with the decision. "India took the decision to select our competitor as the preferred bidder in the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft tender. Although this is not yet a contract signature and contract negotiations are still ahead, we are disappointed. However, we respect the decision of the Indian MoD," Cassidian, the EADS division that runs the Eurofighter programme, said in a statement.

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