IAF Vice Chief bats for ‘beautiful’, ‘capable’ Rafale

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Mumbai, Sep 5 (IANS) The Indian Air Force (IAF) is waiting for the “beautiful and capable” Rafale fighter jet, Vice Chief Air Marshal Shirish Baban Deo said on Wednesday, strongly batting for the aircraft whose purchase from a French maker has been mired in alleged financial irregularities.

The IAF Vice Chief, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an event here, said those speaking against the aircraft lacked information about the advanced jet manufactured by France’s Dassault Aviation.

“Actually, I shouldn’t comment but I can tell you… All this discussion and all these things going on (about) Rafale, it is because we know a lot about how everything went. We find that people don’t have the information, okay.

“And, I shouldn’t be, you know, speaking. I am not authorised to volunteer information. So we just lump it. And these kind of things are not … We are just waiting for the aircraft to come. It is a beautiful aircraft. Very, very capable aircraft and it is a capability that we need very quickly,” the Vice Chief Air Marshal said.

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Asked to elaborate further, the officer said he had said what he had to. “I think I have made myself very clear. You just have to read the DPP, to know about offsets and things like that to say what is what, that’s it.”

Rafale is a twin-engine multi-role fighter aircraft, which is said to be capable of mounting simultaneous air defence and ground attacks in a single mission.

The IAF Vice Chief’s remarks about the fighter come as the Congress has been relentlessly accusing the Modi government of indulging in financial irregularities in the defence deal between India and France.

India had inked an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore. The delivery of the jets is scheduled to begin from September 2019.

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Congress President Rahul Gandhi alleges that the deal to purchase the jets had cost India’s exchequer hugely because the UPA government had agreed to pay less cost per aircraft as compared to what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has finalized.

The Vice Chief Air Marshal was also asked about the delay in the procurement of the Tejas aircraft and whether contracting such projects to private players was a better option.

“I do (think so). I personally do. The Air Force policy is that anything comes to us quickly and money stays in our country, that’s what is required. It is not necessary to know whether the money is with the DPSU (Defence Public Sector Undertakings) or with private company,” he said.

“As long as the money stays in the country, the investment is in the country and aircraft comes out quickly, why should we refuse it?”

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