India's decision to buy 36 "ready-to-fly" Dassault Rafale combat jets is a disaster that will not meet the Indian Air Force's (IAF) immediate needs, according to a New Delhi-based strategist.

The Indian government should have picked the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30 fighters to meet any "critical requirement to make up fighter squadrons" instead, according to Bharat Karnad, a research professor at the think tank Centre for Policy Research (CPR) based in the capital.

The purchase of the 36 Rafales is an "unmitigated disaster" for three reasons, Karnad said on a Reuters webchat.

"[The deal] won't solve the [India Air Force's] immediate needs, which induction of more Su-30s can do. The first Rafales will come in by 2017 at the earliest, more likely 2018.

"It torpedoes the entire TOT (transfer of technology) and 'Make In India' angle, and, while rescuing the French combat aircraft industry, deprives the Indian Tejas Mk2 and the advanced medium combat aircraft projects of much needed funding to get going."

"Rafales are not poor quality, but India will have to pay an arm and a leg for it at over $200m per unit cost. While the more advanced Su-30, as [Indian defence Minister Manohar] Parrikar noted, with full ordnance load comes in at less than half the price."


And India cannot go ahead and purchase the Eurofighter Tyhphoon jets now because the "Typhoon has its own developmental and operational problems and its serviceability in the German Luftwaffe is some 39%," Karnad added.

In March, UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond said the United Kingdom could offer Eurofighters to India if France's delayed plan to sell Rafales falls through.

Hammond said that if the opportunity did arise, Eurofighter had a "very competitive offer" to make, according to reports.

New Delhi picked the Rafale fighters over the Eurofighter Typhoon, made by EADS and financed by a four-nation consortium that includes Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy for the Indian Air Force in 2012.

Dassault also beat US bidders Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Sweden's Saab and the Russian makers of the MiG-35. Rafale has a naval variant that could interest the Indian military in the future.