Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa has revealed that the Narendra Modi government consulted the Indian Air Force (IAF) before it went ahead with the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters instead of 126.
Speaking at the annual press conference ahead of the Air Force Day, Dhanoa said that the negotiations for 126 fighters had reached an impasse.
“At the appropriate level, the Indian Air Force was consulted, but it is for the government to choose,” Dhanoa was quoted as saying.
"The option before us was to keep waiting, or issue a fresh RFP and waste more years, or go in for an emergency purchase. The government took a bold decision," Dhanoa said, adding that governments in the past have also bought two squadrons of fighter jets to meet the emergency requirements of the IAF.
He reiterated that the government and the IAF had no role in Dassault selecting Reliance as one of its offset execution partners. On HAL, he said the company has delivered multiple platforms after long delays.
"It was Dassault that was to select an offset partner and the government, IAF had no role to play," the IAF chief was quoted as saying.
The Congress has been accusing the government of favouring Anil Ambani’s Reliance and ignoring HAL’s capabilities. When the government said that the HAL had capacity and capability limitations, the Congress said that the company has been producing fighter and transport aircraft for many decades.
Responding to this, Dhanoa said, “There has been a delay in the delivery schedule in contracts already executed to HAL. There is a 3-year delay in delivery of Sukhoi-30, a 6-year delay in Jaguar, a 5-year delay in Light Combat Aircraft, and two-year delay in delivery of Mirage 2000 upgrade”.
The IAF Chief also took a jibe at the journalists asking questions about the Rafale controversy, saying “There is more to IAF than Rafale”.
"This was more of a Rafale press conference than one on the Indian Air Force's 86th anniversary,” Dhanoa said towards the end of the event.
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