Indian Air Force Chief B S Dhanoa Wednesday said the Rafale aircraft, once brought to India, will be a game-changer in the subcontinent. Addressing a press briefing in New Delhi, the Air Force chief said that both the Rafale aircraft with France and the S-400 air defence missile system deals that India will sign with Russia are like a “booster dose.” “It’s a very good aircraft. We have got a good package and we have a lot of advantages in Rafale deal,” ANI quoted Dhanao as saying, The Air chief added that both the purchases will enhance the IAF’s capability.
Dhanao also said the IAF played no role in the Rafale deal and that “it was Dassault that was to select offset partner.” He also said that the IAF was consulted on the decision to reduce the number of jets to 36, but the final choice was made by the government. “At the appropriate level, IAF was consulted. IAF had given some options. It is up to the government to choose,” Dhanoa said, reported ANI.
He also justified the procurement of only two Rafale squadrons, saying there are examples of similar purchases made to meet the requirements of the Air Force. “It was decided to buy two squadrons through Government to Government, to meet up emergency requirements. Hindustan Aeronautical was involved in Transfer of Technology and licensed production. There is no question of HAL being left out,” he said.
India’s Rafale deal with France has been in the eye of controversy, with the Opposition accusing the Modi government of irregularities in the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets worth Rs 58,000 crore. The Indian Express earlier reported that only one of the 36 aircraft will be delivered by the end of the contract period in April 2022 with India-Specific Enhancements. India will receive the balance 35 by September 2019.
On India’s neighbours, Dhanoa said they are keeping a close watch and developing counter strategies for the same. “We’re watching infrastructure developments (in China). They (China) have been saying that airports are coming up for regional connectivity. We’ve a plan to counter that. We’re also developing infrastructure,” Dhanao said rejecting any threat from Chinese aircraft in Tibet to India.
Meanwhile, India is expected to sign the S-400 deal with Russia when President Vladimir Putin visits New Delhi this week. The S-400 deal has been caught in a diplomatic crossfire between US and Russia, with Washington threatening Delhi and other partners with sanctions if their defence deals with Russia go through. India and Russia have been discussing the purchase of the S-400 Triumf, (NATO calls it SA-21 Growler), a mobile, surface-to-air missile system since 2015.
(With inputs from PTI, ANI)