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India near to signing French fighter jet deal

Air force chief says $22bn deal for 126 Rafale planes is imminent, dismissing latest bid from Eurofighter consortium.

Last updated: 03 Sep 2014 09:58
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French company Dassault Aviation won the right in 2012 to enter exclusive negotiations with India [Reuters]

India's air force chief has said that a $22bn fighter jet deal with French company Dassault Aviation is to be concluded imminently after several missed deadlines and delays.

Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha told an Indian newspaper that the military could not afford any more hold ups over the 2012 deal to supply 126 French-made Rafale fighters.

Raha said a deadline for finalisation of the deal had not been set but added "it's going to happen soon".

He also threw cold water on attempts by a European consortium  that makes the Eurofighter, a rival to the Rafale, to re-enter the race for the giant contract.

"It will not be appropriate to make any changes in the process," he said in an interview with the Hindustan Times newspaper published on Wednesday.

"The current government has set the pace of work and things are moving fast enough on the fighter deal."

The daily quoted a defence ministry official as saying: "Rafale has run through the finish line".

"It's too late in the day to parachute into the race. The door is closed," the unnamed official said.

Dassault won the right in 2012 to enter exclusive negotiations with India to supply 126 fighters after lodging a lower bid than Eurofighter for a tender with an estimated value at the time of $12bn.

Those negotiations have since been delayed, prompting Britain to raise the contract with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government in July, holding out hope for the Eurofighter.

India's right-wing government, which swept to power in May, has pledged to streamline and speed up a major modernisation of the country's military, and has lifted a cap on foreign investment in defence.

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