Dassault selected an offset partner, Modi govt had no role : IAF Chief

New Delhi, Oct 3 :  Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa said that the government and the Indian Air Force (IAF) had nothing to do with the selection of the offset partner for Rafale-maker Dassault in the 36 fighter jets deal.

Defending the Modi government on the controversy surrounding the choice of offset partners for the Rafale defence deal, the Air Chief said, “It was Dassault that was to select an offset partner and the government, IAF had no role to play.”

He also said the IAF was consulted on the acquisition of 36 fighters at the appropriate level.

His statement came at the time when the ruling party BJP is trying to save Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who signed the Rafale deal after the expose by the then French president Francois Hollande that France was not given a choice in the selection of Anil Ambani’s inexperienced Reliance Defence as an offset partner for Dassault. Rafale deal signed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then French president Francois Hollande in 2015.

“At the appropriate level, the Indian Air Force was consulted, but it is for the government to choose. It was decided to buy two squadrons through a Government to Government deal, to meet up emergency requirements. HAL was involved in ToT (Transfer of Technology) and licensed production…so there is no question of HAL being left out,”he said.

“It’s a very good aircraft. When it comes to the subcontinent, “Rafale will be a game-changer, it has many capabilities. We have a very good package along with the aircraft – best weapons, India specific enhancement, longer industrial support commitment…we have a lot of advantages in the Rafale deal,” he asserted.

The Congress and other opposition parties have alleged that state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was unceremoniously dropped in favour of Anil Ambani’s company.

“The IAF had listed its options – this was one of them,” he added.

“Rs. 9.73 billion dollars in offsets have been cleared for the IAF alone in 28 of 47 contracts signed. “(HAL) Hindustan Aeronautics Limited got only 400 million dollars plus of this,”he said.

“Indian Air Force has reposed its belief in Tejas (aircraft) and the development of LCA Mark-2 is in progress. The IAF plans to acquire a total of 12 squadrons comprising of 239 aircraft.”

When inquired about HAL’s plan to build the Rafale aircraft, the IAF Chief commented that there is no co-production, only buy off shelf, so there is no question of HAL being left out while the offset partners are decided by the OEM.

“There has been a delay in delivery schedule in contracts already executed to HAL. There is a three year delay in the delivery of Sukhoi-30, a six year delay in the Jaguar (aircraft), a five year delay in the LCA, and a two year delay in delivery of Mirage 2000 upgrade.”

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