Dassault Aviation's Rafale fighter jet

Dassault Aviation’s Rafale fighter jet has been selected by the Indian defence ministry as its new medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) in an estimated $10.2bn deal, which has yet to be signed.

As part of the deal, Dassault will supply 126 Rafale to the Indian Air Force (IAF) with the first 18 jets to be manufactured in France from mid-2015 onwards, while the remaining 108 fighters will be manufactured in India following a technology transfer to Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL).

The contract also includes the option for ordering an additional 63 aircraft at a re-negotiated price.

The defence ministry selected the aircraft, which marginally edged out its rival fighter, the Eurofighter Typhoon. The company will now begin negotiations to finalise the contract that is expected to extend beyond 31 March 2012.

A defence ministry official said: "Right now, it’s only an intermediate stage of talks. A final decision could take several months."

The ministry had issued the request for proposals for the MMRCA in August 2007 to six suppliers, and the technical evaluation was completed in June 2009.

The two fighters were shortlisted following technical and flight evaluation tests by the IAF through 2009 and 2010, after edging out Lockheed Martin- built F-16 Super Viper, Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, Russian MiG 35 and Saab Gripen aircraft.

The twin-engine delta-wing multi-role jet fighter, Rafale is designed to conduct air-to-air combat, reconnaissance flights and nuclear bombing missions and is also capable of carrying anti-ship, air to air and air to ground missiles.

The new MMRCA aircraft will be the mainstay of the IAF fighter aircraft fleet for the next 40 years and will replace its existing fleet of MiG variants.

Image: Dassault is to supply 126 Rafale fighters to the Indian Air Force as part of an MMRCA deal.