Amid questions raised by the Congress party over purchase of French fighter aircraft Rafale by the Centre, the Indian Air Force (IAF) on Thursday asserted that “no overpricing” was done in buying the aircraft and the government had “negotiated a very good” deal.
While talking to media at the Adampur Air Force station, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said, “It is not overpricing... We have negotiated for 36 French fighter aircraft Rafale (at a price) lower than that in the contract. The government has negotiated a very good deal.”
Pitching it as a great deal, Dhanoa told that it was a “government-to-government contract” and the IAF was getting 36 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) at a greatly “negotiated price”.
“It is definitely a better deal. It is lower than what was there in the MRMCA contract,” he said without going into specifics.
The Rafale deal has been the focus of debate with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accusing the Prime Minister of changing the “entire deal” to benefit a businessman, a charge debunked by the ruling BJP.
The Congress also claims technology is not being transferred to India under the deal.
Dhanoa said two aircraft had been purchased in a fly-away condition as an emergency measure.
“We are getting 50 per cent offset,” he said, without elaborating.
On technology transfer, he said, “Technology may not be going to the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) but it is coming to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and then to a lot of Indians”.
The IAF chief said a plan was in place to deal with the “drop-down”—or dip—in IAF squadrons.
He said the government had ordered two squadrons of Su 30.
“The drop-down will be made up by two Rafale, two Su 30, two LCA squadrons and 80 more aircraft which will give four more squadrons,” he said.
The government has authorised 42 squadrons to the IAF and at present there are 33.
He, however, added that the drop-down did not affect the performance of the force.
“It does not mean that we cannot carry out operations. We can do restricted operations. For carrying out full-spectrum operations the IAF needs a certain amount of force,” he said.
“There was an order of 272 aircraft and once again we were 35 short by March 2017,” he said.
Dhanoa said a contract was signed in March 2006 for 20 Tejas aircraft to be delivered between April 2009 and December 2010.
“Out of these 20 aircraft, only five were received ... Again a contract was signed in December 2010 for 20 more aircraft to be delivered between June 2014 and December 2016. So we have already committed to 40 aircraft in addition to 83 more Tejas,” he said.
He said the IAF would induct Mark 2 fighters with higher thrust engines and new weapons by 2027.
Shortcomings in LCA Mark 1 will be removed in the LCA Mark 1A aircraft and then Mark 2 will be manufactured, he said.
“Gradually we will make advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, moving from low medium to high technology aircraft,” he said.