A week after the Indian Air Force broke its silence on the political controversy that has been created over India’s deal to acquire Rafale jet fighters from France, the IAF has doubled up and elaborated on the significance of not only the aircraft, but also the deal, and specifically, on the emergency acquisition of two squadrons.
Speaking on the matter at an Air Force seminar on Wednesday, Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force Marshal BS Dhanoa said, "By providing the Rafale S400, the government is strengthening the IAF to counter the shortfall of our depleting numbers."
The Air Chief defended the purchase of two squadrons of the Rafale fighter from France, and put forth the need for numbers to be able to carry out the full spectrum of operations.
Speaking about how India’s armed forces were operating in a unique environment as a result of having two nuclear neighbours – China and Pakistan – he elaborated on how against a sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons, India currently has 31 squads of fighter aircraft, and even if there was a full complement, ‘we will still be down against the combined strength of our two adversaries in the region.
He went on to speak about the necessity of going in for emergency acquisition of fighter aircraft (such as the two squadrons of Rafale) citing precedent, viz. the procurement of two squadrons of Mirage 2000 fighters from France in 1985 and of two squadrons of MiG 23 also in the early 80s.
Air Marshal Dhanoa pointed out how these emergency purchases involved two squadrons each, and in doing so, also ended up providing a response to political critics who have argued ‘why only two squadrons?’
Aside from the two squadrons of Rafale, the IAF has also initiated the process of procurement of 110 fighter aircraft.
A presentation was then made that spoke about the acquisition process of MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft). Here are some of the points made in the slides:
Rafale induction will significantly boost the Nation’s deterrence capability and when required, Rafale will overwhelm our adversaries
Rafale was already evaluated. Its cost discovered and full clarity had been received during contract negotiations
We had not reached such advanced procurement stage for any other aircraft
Consideration of another aircraft at this stage would require few more years of negotiations
It was decided to procure two squadrons of Rafale on G2G basis to meet ‘critical operation necessity of IAF’, which is not unique
Another slide read:
India got the Rafale with:
Most modern sensors Best in class weapons State of the art EW and enhanced survivability India specific enhancements Better price terms Better overall delivery terms and timeline Better maintainance terms Longer industrial support commitment Additional warranty Longer PBL commitment
Further, a slide also spoke about how the deal had earlier reached an impasse:
July 2012 onwards, aspects related to maintenance, ToT and offsets were finalised but the CNC could not resolve issues related to license manufacture of 108 aircraft in India by HAL.
MMRCA case reached an impasse due to irresolvable differences between Dassault Aviation and HAL with respect to: Additional man-hours to be used by HAL in production of Rafale and the cost increase thereof
The IAF chief also brushed aside the claims made by Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha and Prashant Bhushan that the IAF’s morale had gone down because of the political controversy around the Rafale deal. He said: ‘Morale isn’t down. It doesn’t come down on such small issues.’
The statements of the IAF over the course of a week come as a big blow to Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party which has decided to turn the matter into a major political controversy and has planned country-wide news briefings and on-ground events to bring attention to what they’ve called the ‘Rafale scam’.>