September 20, 2018
Air Marshal Raghunath Nambiar, who is the deputy chief of the Indian Air Force, today flew a Rafale fighter jet that has been customised for Indian needs. He flew a sortie in France while sitting in the first seat of the twin-seat fighter jet.
India has signed a deal to buy 36 Rafale jets from French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation. The deal was announced in 2015, during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to France.
An inter-governmental agreement (IGA) was signed formally by India and France on January 25, 2016. Under the deal, Dassault Aviation would sell India 36 customised Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft. The deal is worth around Rs 58,000 crore.
The customisations are specific to the Indian Air Force, i.e. the Rafale fighter jets that India is getting under the deal will be unique to the country and arguably more advanced than the ones used by the French Air Force.
Today, Air Marshal Nambiar flew a Rafale jet that is exactly like the ones Dassault will begin sending to India next year. The first set of Rafale jets are expected to arrive in India in September 2019.
The Indian Air Force will operate two Rafale jet squadrons of 18 aircraft each. One squadron will be based out of the Indian Air Force base in Ambala, Haryana while the other squadron will be operated from Hashimara, West Bengal.
Rafale is in focus on India as the deal for the 36 aircraft has kicked up a political storm. The Congress has alleged irregularities in the Rafale deal and has claimed that Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence is getting undue benefits out of the deal.
The Congress has questioned the government about it is unwilling to release detailed information regarding the Rafale jet’s price.
The Congress has claimed that the Narendra Modi government at the Centre is buying the Rafale jet for a much higher price than what the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government had nearly negotiated when it was in power.
The UPA deal, which was for 126 aircraft, fell through. The UPA deal would also have involved some Rafale jets being manufactured by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in India.
The Congress has alleged that the Modi government did the Indian Air Force a disserve by reducing the numbers of Rafale jets being purchased and by cutting HAL out of the deal.
The government, on the other hand, has completely rejected the allegations saying that its deal is actually cheaper than the UPA deal and that is the UPA that dropped HAL from the Rafale deal in the first place.
The government has also said that it cannot reveal detail price information due to a ‘secrecy clause’ in the deal it has signed with France. Unofficially, it is said that the need to protect the price is so that confidential information about the India-specific upgrades the Indian Air Force has sought does not become public.
Reliance Defence too has denied the Congress’s charges, saying that it is not involved in the manufacture of Rafale jets in any manner.