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HomeIndiaGovernanceAir Chief Dhanoa criticises HAL, backs Rafale purchase as 'gamechanger'

Air Chief Dhanoa criticises HAL, backs Rafale purchase as ‘gamechanger’

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Amid row over Reliance Defence as Dassault’s offset partner for Rafale, Air Chief says neither govt nor IAF has anything to do with such selections.

New Delhi: Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa, Chief of the Air Staff, was scathing in his criticism of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd Wednesday even as he mounted support for the controversial Rafale deal.

Calling it a “slight” lag, Dhanoa emphasised that the defence PSU was behind schedules on delivery of several contracts.

Addressing reporters at the annual press conference ahead of the Air Force Day on 8 October, Dhanoa also stressed that the selection of the offset partner for defence contracts is the prerogative of the company contracted, and the Government of India or the Indian Air Force has nothing to do with it.

Also read: Indian Air Force wants to buy second lot of S-400 missile systems from Russia

Dhanoa’s comments comes as the Modi government faces opposition heat over the controversial Rafale deal.

The Chief of the Air Staff also called the Rafale fighter jet a “gamechanger” and French manufacturer Dassault Aviation “as good a player as any”.

HAL lag

HAL is running three years behind schedule on the assembling contract for Sukhoi-30, said Dhanoa, adding that 25 of these aircraft are yet to be delivered.

Further, HAL is running six years behind schedule for the Jaguar Darin III upgrade, five years behind schedule for the LCA Tejas with Initial Operational Clearance, two years behind schedule for the upgrade of the Mirage 2000 and five years behind schedule for the HTT 40 (trainer aircraft) for assembly and manufacturing, said Dhanoa.

“This is the status as we speak,” said the Chief of the Air Staff.

Among the three services, there have been 47 contracts for offsets, of which 28 are for the Indian Air Force, said Dhanoa.

Offsets are reinvestments made by an original equipment manufacturer to shore up indigenous defence industry.

Among the $11.48 billion in offsets that have been contracted, $9.73 billion would be the worth of offsets for the IAF, he said. Of this amount, HAL has only got contracts worth $427 million.

Soft praise

Dhanoa, however, added that HAL has been a huge support during the countrywide Gagan Shakti exercise in April. It was one of IAF’s biggest military exercises in the last three decades.

Also readModi govt set to shake off Ambani-Rafale shadow with a little help from Putin

Dhanoa also said HAL met its overall production targets in the last financial year. He added that it was because of HAL’s support that the IAF could maintain high serviceability.

Issues with HAL were expected to be addressed during an annual commanders’ conference, said Dhanoa.

“It is not for public domain,” he added.

‘Booster dose’

Backing the Rafale deal, Dhanoa said that India has got a very good package along with the aircraft.

“We got the most modern sensors, best in-class weapons, state of the art electronic warfare and enhanced survivability, India-specific enhancements, better delivery terms, better maintenance terms, longer industrial support commitment, additional warranty and longer lifecycle commitment. So we have got a lot of advantages in the Rafale deal,” he said.

Dhanoa said both the Rafale deal and the S-400 are like a booster dose to the IAF as its squadron numbers are falling.

“Rafale is a very good aircraft. When it comes into the subcontinent, it will be a game changer because it has got significant capabilities, better than what our regional adversaries have got,” said Dhanoa.

“It also takes care of the new aircraft they are likely to be inducted in the near future,” said the Chief of the Air Staff.

In another proposed deal for 114 aircraft, for which the Request for Information (RFi) was floated, Dassault Aviation was one of the respondents, said Dhanoa.

“So it is as good a player as anybody else,” he added.

‘Didn’t push for anything’

On being asked about why the IAF’s operational requirement for 126 Rafale-type fighter jets was slashed to 36, Dhanoa said the IAF was consulted at an “appropriate level”.

“IAF had given the government some options and it was the prerogative of the government to choose from the options,” he said.

“The IAF did not push anything. There were just three options. Either you continue waiting and hope that something will happen. Or you withdraw the RFP (Request for Proposal) and start all over again. Or you do an emergency purchase,” he said.

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  1. Coming from the ‘horse’s mouth’.Dirty politicians should nt play with the country’s security.

  2. What else do you expect from the chief of IMPORTED AIR FORCE… he has been fielded by the govt to defend it…shame and disgust on this govt which has stooped so low…moreover..he couldn’t explain bout the increased cost of each aircraft…Indian Air Force is IMPORTED AIR FORCE…

    • The ministry of Defense and HAL officials must be held accountable. These delays are are not only an embarrassment but a strategic Achilles heel. Clearly, the indigenous armaments side of the equation has failed miserably and the airmen are reduced to seeking armaments, from ant source. Can you blame them? The so-called detractors (aka Imported Air Force), have slogans, but no solutions. Their time would be better spent mapping out the way forward and stop sloganeering!

  3. As an ordinary citizen, I would request the Air Chief Marshal to kindly tell us this:

    are the configurations negotiated by the UPA and the NDA governments different in terms of ADDITIONAL arms in the latter case, or only in terms of NEWER VERSIONS of what the UPA had negotiated?

    Also, Sir, you have expressed your views on HAL. Have you also any views on the Reliance company with which your officers will have to interact in future?

    Lastly, does the RFP stand withdrawn now, with the emergency procurement of 36 planes? Will this number be sufficient for IAF?

  4. One presumes HAL is under the administrative control of MoD. The slippages of two to six years in delivery of Sukhoi 30 aircraft and other important upgrades must be hurting the IAF’s operational readiness. There must be reasons why these long delays are taking place, which need to be understood and redressed. That should be a very high priority for Raksha Mantri, assisted by the military brass and mandarins. HAL is financially sound. There was some talk about its listing on the exchange. It should be brought to a stage of excellence where it is the natural partner of choice for the IAF.

  5. No this govt will use all service officer and bureaucrats to justified that a bankrupt company is going to take Rafale building without any experience. Ericsson has filed a case that Anil Ambani should not run away from the country.

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