The Dassault-led Rafale International team has taken a decisive lead in India's medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) battle, with the French proposal having beaten a rival offer by the Eurofighter Typhoon on price.

Although the Indian government and defence ministry have yet to make a formal announcement, the French airframer confirmed on 31 January that it had been selected for the 126-aircraft deal.

Exclusive negotiations for a Rafale purchase will now take place, with Reuters having quoted Indian Defence Minister A K Antony as saying a deal will not be concluded before the start of the next financial year in April.

"Dassault Aviation and its partners reiterate their commitment to meet the operational requirements of the Indian air force," the French company said, adding that it was "honoured and grateful" to have gained selection.

 Rafale Aero India - Indian MoD

© Indian Ministry of Defence

France sent air force Rafales to the 2011 Aero India show in Bengaluru 

EADS and the German government, which headed the Typhoon MMRCA campaign for the four-nation Eurofighter consortium, have yet to comment on the decision. However, a UK source said that while the announcement comes as a disappointment, Dassault must still clear detailed negotiations to sign a deal with New Delhi.

If advanced to a production contract, the Indian selection would hand a first export success to Dassault with the Rafale, following earlier disappointments in campaigns in countries including Morocco, Singapore and South Korea. The type has also been the subject of apparent past selections in Brazil and the United Arab Emirates, but sales have yet to be finalised with either potential customer.

In addition to Dassault, which builds the fighter at its Merignac facility in southern France, the Rafale International team includes radar and electronic warfare system supplier Thales and M88-2 engine producer Snecma. India will acquire 18 aircraft in a flyaway condition, with assembly and production responsibility to transfer to Hindustan Aeronautics over the following 108 examples.

Source: Flight International