NEW DELHI: IAF chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa once again defended the Rafale fighter deal, saying the "government took a bold step to buy 36 Rafale for IAF" at a "reasonable and adequate" cost.
He also said that the IAF had been consulted at "appropriate levels" before the deal was finalized, and neither the government or the IAF had any say in who Dassault Aviation chose as its partner for the offset plans.
The opposition Congress Party had turned the Rafale deal into an election issue, alleging that the government had violated all procurement norms and decided to buy the 36 aircraft without consulting the IAF or the Defence ministry.
It also says the government forced Dassault to accept Reliance Aerospace as its offset partner, ignoring the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Addressing a press conference ahead of the 86th Air Force Day on October 8, Dhanao said that the "earlier deal on 126 MMRCA had reached an impasse during negotiations.
We had three options-first was to wait for something good to happen, second was to withdraw the global tender (RFP) and start over again and third, to do an emergency purchase. We did an emergency purchase.-"Expressing concern about the IAF's rapidly depleting squadron levels, he said: "the signing of 83 Tejas, 36 Rafale besides Sukhoi-30 will arrest the drop down from the existing 31 squadrons."
As for HAL being ignored, he said -"there has been a delay in the delivery schedule in contracts already executed to HAL. There is a 3 yrs delay in delivery of Sukhoi-30, 6 years delay in Jaguar, a 5-year delay in LCA, and 2-year delay in delivery of Mirage 2000 upgrade.
"Asserting that the Rafale would be a "game changer" and a "booster dose" once it was inducted into the IAF, he said the plane had India specific enhancements, the best weapons, and a longer support commitment from Dassault.
"We have a lot of advantages in the deal," he said, adding that "Dassault has responded to the Request for Information issued by the IAF for 114 jets, and the Rafale is a strong contender for next procurement programme of IAF.-"According to him, "Both Rafale and S-400 deal is a booster deal for the air force. Acquisition of Rafale and S-400 would long to way in addressing our depleting squadron strength."
Defying the possibility of US sanctions, India is likely to sign an agreement to buy four batteries of the Russian S400 Air Defence Systems during President Vladimir Putin's visit to Delhi for the annual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi October 4-5.