The purchase of 36 French combat aircraft 'Rafale' is like a booster dose for the Indian Air Force, the chief of Indian Air Force (IAF), Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa told the media at the annual press meet ahead of the 86th Air Force Day on Oct 8.
“There were three options in front of us: either wait for something to happen, withdraw the RFP or go in for an emergency purchase,” Dhanoa said.
Responding to media questions related to the Rafale deal and the Offsets related issues, Dhanoa said that the aircraft comes in the sub continent due to its capabilities and advanced weaponry.
To a question if the IAF was informed about the deal being changed from 126 to 36, the chief said that, At the appropriate level the IAF was consulted and we gave had given some options. It is upto the government to choose the aircraft. It was decided to buy two quadroons of Rafale through government to government route to meet emergency requirements.”
Ruling out `Rafale’s present price being costlier than agreed upon in the earlier negotiations, the chief said that “IAF was part of the CNC (Cost Negotiating Committee) and the price was finalised after due consideration. And we have a lot of advantages in this deal including good Indian specific enhancements, modern sensors, advanced weaponry.”
Since the 36 aircraft from France have been purchased off the shelf, there is no question of them being manufactured with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), said the chief. As for the offsets, the chief pointed out that the Original Manufacturer (OEM) decides whom they want to work with to discharge the obligation.
When it comes to future purchases, the IAF has learnt from the past, “For 110 fighters we issued the RFI, and seven vendors have responded. Have to get an AON (acceptance of necessity) and then we will float the RFP, will not be a long procedure because testing and procedure were done last time.”
He further added that both — Rafale the French fighter planes and S-400 missile defence system to be procured from Russia — will prove to be a booster dose for the depleting arsenal of Air Force.
“I don’t think CATSAA will come in the way of the purchase of the S-400 missile system. Commercial negotiations are already completed and now it is up to the government to take a decision. Once done, the delivery will be in 24 months.”
“Indian Air Force has reposed its belief in Tejas (aircraft) and the development of LCA Mark-2 is in progress. The IAF plans to acquire a total of 12 squadrons comprising of 239 aircraft.”
“There has been a delay in delivery schedule in contracts already executed to Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). There is a three year delay in the delivery of Sukhoi-30, a six year delay in the Jaguar (aircraft), a five year delay in the LCA, and a two year delay in delivery of Mirage 2000 upgrade,” the chief pointed out.
On the development of several airports in China along the Indian border, the Air Chief said India is countering China’s moves by developing its own infrastructure.
“We’re watching infrastructure developments there. They have been saying that airports are coming up for regional connectivity. We have a plan to counter that. We’re also developing infrastructure. Fifty Chinese aircraft in Tibet is not a threat,” he said.
The chief also announced a competition in the memory of Late Air Commodore Mehar Singh to develop swarm drones with a prize of Rs 10 lakh and Rs 10 crore to develop the winning system.