India’s defence ministry said it would confirm the exact price later on Friday, but a ministry official said it was 7.8 billion euros ($8.7 billion). Air force officials have warned for years about a major capability gap opening up with China and Pakistan without new state-of-the-art planes, as India’s outdated and largely Russian-made fleet retires and production of a locally made plane was delayed.
India signed a deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France on Friday for around $8.7 billion, the country’s first major acquisition of combat planes in two decades and a boost for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to rebuild an ageing fleet. The air force is down to 33 squadrons, against its requirement of 45 to face both China, with which it has a festering border dispute, and nuclear-armed rival Pakistan. French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian signed the agreement with his Indian counterpart, Manohar Parrikar, in New Delhi, ending almost 18 months of wrangling over terms between New Delhi and manufacturer Dassault Aviation.