Deputy Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Raghunath Nambiar on Thursday flew the first Rafale fighter jet manufactured for India, reported PTI. Built by French firm Dassault Aviation, Nambiar flew the aircraft in Paris to assess its efficacy.
The air marshal is in France to assess the progress in the production of Rafale jets. Dassault Aviation is scheduled to deliver the jets to India from September 2019. India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in 2016 to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets for Rs 58,000 crore.
The jets are capable of carrying a range of weapons and missiles. An Indian Air Force team is in France to help Dassault Aviation incorporate the India-specific avionics and weapons system in the aircraft.
This comes at a time when the Centre and the Opposition are locked in a raging controversy over the deal. The Congress has accused the Narendra Modi government of getting an overpriced deal. It has also accused the government of helping a defence firm owned by Anil Ambani, which has no experience in the sector, land a mega contract under the deal. On Wednesday, a delegation of Congress leaders submitted a memorandum to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India regarding alleged irregularities in the Rafale jet deal and demanded a thorough investigation into the purchase details.
The government has denied the Opposition’s allegations. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited was excluded from the deal by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government. “HAL and Dassault [Aviation] couldn’t agree on production terms,” she said. “So HAL and Rafale couldn’t go together. Doesn’t that very clearly say who didn’t go together with HAL and under which government it happened?”