New Delhi, Oct 3 : Coming out in full support of the government in the controversial Rafale deal, Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa on Wednesday said the government took a “bold decision” in going for the fighter jets which he said would be a “game changer” in the Indian sub-continent when they come.
He also said that the Air Force was consulted at the “appropriate level” before the government went ahead with the decision.
“I will not go into the political thing around the deal. All I can say is that it is a very good aircraft and when it comes to the sub-continent, it will be a game changer. Because it has got significant capabilities, better than what our regional adversaries have got,” Dhanoa said.
“We have got a very good package along with the aircraft. We have got the most modern sensors, best in class weapons, state-of-the-art electronic warfare and enhanced survivability, India-specific enhancements, better overall delivery schedules, extended warranty etc. So we have got lot of advantage,” he added.
Talking about the deal, he said it came at a time when the IAF squadrons were depleting and the force needed a “booster shot”.
“We had reached an impasse. There were just three options. Either we continued indefinitely to resolve differences between Dassault Aviation and HAL and hope that something would happen. Or we cancel the RFP and start all over again. Or we go ahead with the purchase,” Dhanoa said.
“If we decided to scrap Rafale and go buy some other aircraft it would set us back by another six years. It was decided to procure Rafale on government-to-government basis to meet the critical operational requirements of the IAF. So the government took a very bold decision,” he added.
He said the IAF had given the government some options. And it was the prerogative of the government to choose from those options.
Stressing that all concerns about Rafale being the first choice had been addressed adequately at appropriate levels, the IAF chief said that the jet was better than any country in this region has.
On the controversy surrounding the price of the 36 Rafale jets, the air force chief said that the Cost Negotiation Committee (CNC) cleared the proposal after due consideration and addressing all “observations” made at this stage.
“The CNC was led by the Deputy Chief of IAF. The cost has been covered by MoS Defence and the Finance Minister in Parliament. That is the figure that we stick to.
“Just by pure simple logic, if you have a past negotiation committee that has already discovered a price, I am sure the CNC will choose a price lower than the previous one. Or it can never be substantially higher than the old price,” Dhanoa said.
On keeping the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) out of the deal, Dhanoa said there was “no question” of keeping HAL out as the 36 aircraft were purchased off the shelf.
“The next question comes to offsets. The manufacturer (in this case Dassault) chooses the offset partners. It is a corporate decision for them whether they want to do offset work or not. The manufacturer has to choose the offset partner. The government or IAF has nothing to do with it,” he said.