Air Force Chief defends Rafale purchase, 10 crore to develop swarm drones

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NEW DELHI: The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal, BS Dhanoa, defended the Rafale purchase as “a game changer” at the annual Air Force press conference here. The Indian Air Force 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.

“We have lots of advantages in the Rafale deal…this and the S400 will enhance capabilities to counter our shortfalls,” the Air Chief pointed out.

“At the appropriate level, the Indian Air Force was consulted, but it is for the government to choose. It was decided to buy two squadrons through a Government to Government deal, to meet up emergency requirements. HAL was involved in ToT (Transfer of Technology) and licensed production…so there is no question of HAL being left out. It’s a very good aircraft. When it comes to the subcontinent, it will be a game changer, and we have lots of advantages in the Rafale deal, we have got a very good package. It has got the best sensors, advanced weaponry,” the Air Chief said.

“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.”

When inquired about HAL’s plan to build the Rafale aircraft, the IAF Chief commented that there is no co-production, only buy off shelf, so there is no question of HAL being left out while the offset partners are decided by the OEM.

“There has been a delay in delivery schedule in contracts already executed to 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 negotiation for the 126 aircraft deal for the Rafale had reached an impasse. “The option before us was to keep waiting, or issue a fresh RFP and waste more years, or go in for an emergency purchase. The government took a bold decision.,” Dhanoa said.

As for the controversy over the price of the jets, Dhanoa said the Cost Negotiation Committee had finalised the price after due consideration. “It’s not simply possible that the new cost would be higher than the cost finalised earlier,” he said.

When it comes to future purchases, the IAF has learnt from the past,”For 110 fighters we issued the RFI, (and) got a response from six vendors. Have to get an AON (acceptance of necessity) and then we’ll float the RFP, will not be a long procedure because testing and procedure were done last time. We are (also) wiser after the last RFP we had issued.”

“This was more of a Rafale press conference than one on the Indian Air Force’s 86th anniversary. There is more to IAF than Rafale,” Air Chief Dhanoa concluded.





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