Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa on Wednesday said the Rafale deal was a “good package” and the aircraft would be a “game-changer” in the subcontinent, PTI reported.
Reacting to the controversy surrounding the deal, Dhanoa said Dassault Aviation – which manufactures the fighter jets – had selected its offset partner and the government and Indian Air Force had no role in it. This contradicts former French President Francois Hollande’s claim that the Indian government proposed the name of Anil Ambani’s firm Reliance Defence for the offset contract. India’s Ministry of Defence, the French government and Dassault have also said the Indian government had no role in choosing Reliance.
Dhanoa said the government has taken a bold step by buying 36 Rafale aircraft. “A high performance, high-tech aircraft has been to the given to the Air Force to offset the capability of the adversary,” ANI quoted him as saying.
“We had reached an impasse,” Dhanoa said. “We had three options, first was either to wait for something to happen, withdraw RFP [request for proposal] or do an emergency purchase. We did an emergency purchase. Both Rafale and S-400 deal is a booster deal for the Air Force.”
When asked if the Air Force was informed about the decision to buy 36 jets instead of 126 jets as was proposed earlier, Dhanoa said the government had consulted the Air Force “at the appropriate level”. “IAF had given some options,” he said. “It is up to the government to choose.”
Dhanoa said state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited was not “left out” of the new deal. He said the decision to buy two squadrons was taken to “meet up emergency requirements”. “HAL was involved in ToT [Transfer of Technology] and licensed production,” ANI quoted him as saying. The Air Force chief said the depletion of the number of squadrons was a “major concern”.
Asked about China, he said India was watching the infrastructure developments in the country. “They [China] have been saying that airports are coming up for regional connectivity,” the Air Force chief said. “We have a plan to counter that. We’re also developing infrastructure. 50 Chinese aircraft in Tibet is not a threat.”