On October 3, 2018, Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa slammed the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in his own trademark way – praised them even as he gave a rap on their knuckles. IAF chief also came to the defense of the Rafale deal crediting the government for the “bold decision” to go in for the emergency purchase of 36 fighter jets adding that they would be “game changer” in the subcontinent.
Asked about the claims of former HAL chairman that the state-run enterprise had the ability to build a Rafale aircraft, he thanked the HAL saying it was due to them that the recently held Gagan Shakti exercise was such a success. However, he quickly read out the issues of concern. Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa began by pointing out that the delivery of the Su30 MKI has been delayed by three years.
He then went on to say that Final Operational Clearance of the LCA is delayed by five years, upgrade of Jaguar aircraft is behind six years and the upgrade of Mirage is lagging behind by two years. With these words, he literally slammed the HAL on its face which had claimed that it had the ability to manufacture the aircraft as per schedule.
Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa pointed out that there was an “impasse” in the negotiations for the 126 Rafale fighter jets and this was basically because of two reasons – the man hours being taken by HAL to manufacture the aircraft as compared to Dassault Aviation (2.7 times higher) and who will take guarantee of the aircraft manufactured by the Bangalore based firm.
Replying to questions on whether the IAF was consulted before arriving at the figure of 36, he seems to play safe and replied, “At the appropriate level, IAF was consulted… IAF had given some options. It is up to the government to choose.”
He explained that there were only three options. One was to wait for the impasse to get over, second was to cancel the MMRCA RFP and issue a new one. He said this would have meant at least another six years gone waste.
Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said the third option was to go in for the emergency purchase of two squadrons of Rafale aircraft. Asked about major concerns for the IAF, he said, the depleting fighter jets is an “issue”.
“The signing of 83 Tejas, 36 Rafale besides Sukhoi-30 will arrest the drop down from the existing 31 squadrons,” he said.
India’s Rafale deal with France has been in the eye of controversy, with the opposition accusing the Modi government of irregularities in the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets worth Rs 59,000 crore.