Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Serving air marshals join the Rafale dogfight

We have a tradition in India, actually a discipline, that officers in uniform don’t take part even in political discussions, let alone debates, which are mostly about scoring points. But we recently saw that tradition breached when two senior Indian Air Force officers spoke to television channels about the ongoing contretemps over the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters from France’s Dassault Aviation. The IAF vice-chief, Air Marshal S.B. Deo, an accomplished officer who designs and builds smart weapons in his front yard for a hobby, speaking to the media on the sidelines of a recent Centre for Air Power Studies and Confederation of Indian Industries seminarm said: “Those criticising the deal must understand the procurement procedure. It is a beautiful aircraft. It is a very capable aircraft and we are waiting to fly it.”

The Rafale was chosen after a gruelling process to pick a fighter out of six contenders for the original 126 multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) requirement. That has now been truncated to just 36 completely built-up units. There is no question raised about the quality and capability of the Rafale. But as far as the procurement procedure is concerned, I doubt if the air marshal himself understands it, for strange are the ways of governments. But it nevertheless was a well-crafted statement and he kept within the folds of the envelope those in uniform are required to be within. But his junior, the deputy air chief, Air Marshal Raghunath Nambiar, speaking to reporters at the eighth heli-power seminar, said: “Those who are claiming such numbers, I think they are misinformed and probably not aware of the facts that are known to us in the Indian Air Force. We are the ones who were very much part of the negotiations with the French government. And we have the facts with us. And I don’t think what is being alleged matches up with the facts at all. I can tell you that the Rafale that we have gone for is substantially lower than the price that was on the table in 2008.” He is talking rubbish.
11/09/18 Mohan Guruswamy/Asian Age