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IAF’s Rafale Deal with France: India confirms order

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New Delhi: With the confirmation of the order by the Indian government for 36 Rafale jets with the French government, the Indian Air Force’s quest for a Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) was finally over.

According to sources, documents for the government-to-government deal were delivered by New Delhi to Paris on New Year’s eve, and the agreement is on the same lines as that for the Mirage 2000 aircraft signed in the early 1980s. IAF will buy all the Rafale aircraft from Dassault, the French aircraft builder and integrator, in a flyaway condition.

As the deal is between governments, the French authorities will ensure that Dassault complies with the terms of reference as it has successfully done in the case of Mirage 2000 — about 60 of which were delivered beginning 1985. The basic agreement was for 49 and 10 more were acquired later.

Significantly, this is the second deal for IAF – and Indian Army – within one week, the other being for Russian Kamov-31 helicopters signed on Christmas Eve with the Russian Government in Moscow during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit there. That deal involves a substantial manufacturing of these machines in India as the number is large — more than 200.

It may be noted that originally IAF was to acquire 126 aircraft after the Rafale was selected in the MMRCA competition some time back, 18 in flyaway condition and 108 as progressively assembled and made in India by HAL under part Transfer of Technology (ToT). Private industry was to be involved, but HAL’s share was negotiated as more than 70 percent.

There were a lot of hiccups, over costs of the aircraft — over $100 million-plus per aircraft — and offsets from the Indian side and responsibility for the quality of production in India from the French side. Finally, keeping in mind IAF’s urgent requirements, the prime minister intervened to order 36 aircraft, or two squadrons, in a direct government-to-government deal during his visit to Paris in April.

This time, the deal involved no production in India but there were still some hiccups over the 50 percent stipulated offsets although aircraft costs would, by and large, have been the same as for the French Air Force (Armée de l’Air). Offset obligations would always be additional.

Modi, intervening again, spoke directly with French President Francois Hollande on a telephone in early September, and expressed difficulty in concluding the deal without the offsets. Hollande graciously agreed, and IAF approved the deal in mid-December. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) delivered a copy of the Inter-Government Agreement in this regard through the established diplomatic channels just as the New Year was set to begin.

Under the deal, Dassault and its main partners — engine maker Safran and electronic systems maker Thales — will share some technology with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and maybe some private sector companies and HAL under the offsets clause. Details are not known but as the aircraft have to be flown and maintained in India for at least three-to-four decades, a lot of information and technology upgrades will be needed to keep them operational.

The twin-engine Rafale combat jet is designed from the beginning as a multi-role fighter for air-to-air and air-to-ground attacks, is nuclear- capable and, thanks to its onboard Electronic Warfare (EW) systems, can also perform reconnaissance and radar jamming roles.

The deal involves delivery of aircraft to begin within three years of signing the agreement — 2018-end in this case — but French industry sources told this writer some time back in Paris that Dassault had started planning for the Indian order from mid-2015 itself, and “maybe the deliveries could be faster if required.”

Last year had been lucky for Dassault as the Rafale has also been selected by Egypt and Qatar while the UAE is considering it seriously.

There are suddenly too many orders, and the only way to meet them is to divert the French Air Force requirements for the next few years. That is being done.(Gulshan Luthra, IANS) 

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)