Shailesh Kumar, National Defence
New Delhi, 12 September 2018
Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa says that “Our neighbours (Pakistan and China) are not sitting idle. They are replacing their 2nd and 3rd generation fleet fast with 4 plus generation fighter jets and developing 5th generation fighter jets. India needs 42 squadrons of fighter jet to deal with both the adversaries, Pakistan and China, to carry out full spectrum of operations”. Air Chief’s statement can be seen in the light of Congress party mounting a series of attacks alleging scam in Rafale Deal. While the then defence minister AK Antony reportedly faced criticism of sitting idle on defence procurement files fearing corruption while India’s adversaries enhanced their capabilities multifold. The Modi Government realising the dire need of MMRCA, signed Inter- Governmental Agreement to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets. Air Chief’s statement would bring the battle zone back to Congress Party headquarter.
Meanwhile, Air Marshal SBP Sinha, Air Officer-In- Command, Central Air Command also defended Rafale Deal. Speaking at IAF Force Modernisation 2035 seminar organised by Centre For Air Power Studies (CAPS), Air Marshal Sinha said, “having reached an impasse in MMRCA procurement, all available options were analysed which included to continue indefinitely to resolve the differences between Dassault Aviation (DA) and HAL, cancel the RFP and restart the process”. “Since the impasse was on transfer of technology, so large number of ToT could only be procured after resolving these issues”, Air Marshal Sinha, who was also member of the Cost Negotiation Committee (CNC) till 2015, said.
“ToT (Transfer of Technology) through strategic partnership model was under discussion. Rafale was already evaluated, its cost discovered and full clarity had been achieved during the contract negotiations. We had not reached such advance procurement stage for another aircraft. Consideration of another aircraft at this stage would require few more years negotiations. It was decided to procure two squadrons of Rafale on G2G basis to meet critical operational necessity of Indian Air Force, which is not unique”, he clarified.
“MMRCA multi vendor procurement was initiated after DAC approval. 36 Rafale on G2G procurement under para 71 of Defence Procurement Procedure 2013 was also initiated after DAC approval. Air Headquarter had obtained DAC approval for only changes in weapons and deliverables to make Rafale more potent. Rafale had already cleared the technical and field evaluations, cost of rafale and deliverables were also discovered by the MMRCA Cost Negotiation Committee (CNC)”, Air Marshal Sinha explained. Indian Air Force in a hostile circumstances building in India’s neighbourhood recommended Government to urgently procure Rafale fighters in the light of dwindling number of fighter squadrons.
Air Chief Dhanoa further said that only South Korea and Israel are two countries in the world those face two nuclear armed neighbours and not that close as India. Citing open sources, Air Chief said, “Pakistan has 20 squadrons of fighter jets and upgrading it’s fleet and inducting JF-17, a 4.5 generation fighter. China has around 1700 fighter jets and replacing its old fleet with fourth generation fighter and developing fifth generation fighter”. He said India quickly needs to keep up the pace to match adversaries equally. Speaking at the seminar “IAF’s Force Structure and Modrnisation Roadmap, Air Chief said that “the squadron strength of Indian Air Force has come down to 31 , which is very low compared to it’s sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons based on the threat perception”.
“This is the first procurement with such deep oversight and commitment by the supplier’s Government. Rafale is a very potent air asset that would exponentially enhance the combat potential of IAF and Rafale induction will significantly boost nation;s deterrance capability and when required Rafale will overwhelm our adversaries”, Air Marshal Sinha expressed his feelings.
A few days back deputy chief of Indian Air Force, Air Marshal R. Nambiar also defended the Rafale deal explaining that Government procured 36 Rafale Fighter at a price 40 per cent cheaper that ever quoted.
Air Force Chief again cited cases when Indian Government has opted for G2G Deal in emergency situations. In January 1983, Soviet Union (Earstwhile USSR) has given India 2 squadrons of MiG-23 MF when Pakistan posed threat to India’s air security after procuring F-16 Fighter Jets from United States of America. “As they shown interest of purchasing more squadrons of F-16s, again we got the two squadrons of MiG-29, fourth generation fighter from the Soviet Union. It is pertinent to note that all these procurements were of two squadrons of fighter aircrafts under the umbrella of Inter- Governmental- Agreement”. “IGA facilitates faster procurement of equipment. Whenever, a critical operational necessity arises, it is the quickest mean of achieving the operational capability”.
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