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'Negotiations on with Dassault for fighter jets'

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SHILLONG (PTI): The Indian Air Force is negotiating with French aviation major Dassault Aviation's Rafale for 126 medium fighter jets in a multi-billion dollar deal, Chief of Air Staff of IAF, Air Chief Marshall N A K Browne Thursday said.

The deal suffered a "setback" due to the death of an official, who handled the negotiation, in September. Now a new Joint Secretary has joined last week to take the negotiations forward, Browne told reporters here.

"They have had meetings as of this time and I am hopeful that by early next year we should be able to wrap this case for the Air Force," Browne said after rounding up his two-day farewell visit to the headquarter of the Eastern Air Command where he also chaired a Commanders' conference.

Browne said the 'Rafale' are expected to be inducted into the force by 2017, three years approximately after the contract is signed.

'Rafale' outclassed the Euro-fighter 'Typhoon' to bag the deal in India after officials found that its commercial bid was lower than 'Typhoon'.

According to the Request for Proposal (RFP) of the IAF, 18 aircraft will be brought in the next three years while the remaining aircraft is likely to be manufactured at HAL facilities at Bangalore, defence sources said.

Military aviation majors from across the globe - the Russia's MIG-35, USA's F-16 Falcon (Lockheed Martin), F-18 Hornet (Boeing), Swedish 'Saab Gripen', European EADS Euro-Fighter 'Typhoon' and 'Rafale'- competed in the bid to supply 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft.

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