NEW DELHI — India and France move closer to concluding a Rafale fighter-jet deal, estimated at around $9 billion, as the two countries have agreed to sign an inter-governmental agreement (IGA), which was one of the obstacles towards an eventual sale.

Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar told parliament Aug. 2 in a written reply that an agreement has been reached to sign the IGA.

"Both sides also agreed to conclude an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for supply of the aircraft. A negotiating team has been constituted to negotiate the terms and conditions of the procurement of 36 Rafale jets and recommend a draft agreement," the defense ministry said in a statement, quoting Parrikar.

In an earlier reply to the Indian parliament, on July 19, Parrikar had said "negotiations are underway and IGA and offset contract are yet to be finalized."

The Indian defense minister had then said then that the 36 aircraft being procured will have advanced features like Advanced Electronically Scanned Array radar, mid-air refueling and advanced electronic-warfare equipment as part of its design.

The two sides now have finalized the details for weaponry and other modifications to be made on the aircraft, a senior Indian Air Force (IAF) official said.

The finer details of the offset and cost of the aircraft are still being worked, an MoD official said, adding that those would be completed "soon."

To execute the offsets, several French companies including Safran, MBDA and Thales will join Dassault in providing state-of-art technologies in stealth, radar, thrust vectoring for missiles and materials for electronics and micro-electronics.

For the 36 Rafale fighters, India also will procure unspecified numbers of Mica air-to-air missiles, SCALP air-to-ground missile and Meteor beyond-visual-range missile and precision-guided munitions.

In addition, a separate agreement for five years of maintenance and engineering support will be signed.

India is expected to receive all 36 Rafale fighters in fly-away condition within 36 months after signing the final contract.

E-mail: vraghuvanshi@defensenews.com