Rafale still remains favoured MMRCA, confirms IAF official
A top IAF official, in an exclusive conversation at Vayu Bhavan headquarters of the Service confirmed that Rafale remains the favoured MMRCA.
Earlier, there were reports that Dassault – the French armaments major - is attempting to overcharge the Indian government by making the IAF to buy an upgraded version, which was virtually double the price the contract negotiations committee (CNC) was discussing with the company representatives.
The reports said that Dassault has offered the F3R version instead of the model that was tested under Indian conditions, F3. The price of F3R, the reports said, was double the price of the model that conformed to the RFP, originally issued by the ministry of defence.
The IAF official explained the delay in conclusion of the contract was due to the CNC being sensitised about issues by various external sources, including Dassault’s competitors, and the former seeking clarifications for them.
He also said that on the Avro replacement issue, the ministry has appointed an independent committee, which would look into the offer of the Tata-Airbus deal. This committee will inform the ministry whether a single vendor situation is agreeable in this instance. When asked who the members of this committee were, the official only, “they were knowledgeable.”
He recounted how the other bidders of the RFP had fallen off the ‘radar’ – so to say – with Saab closing its production line; Antonov based in Ukraine getting caught up in its civil war; Rososboronexport losing interest; Alenia Aeromachhi too showing diffidence about the contract. Considering the fact that the IAF is also seeking attack helicopters like Boeing’s Apache and Chinook, the heavy lift helicopters, the contract negotiations have been completed. It now has to go through the approval process of the government.
The official pointed out that according to the retirement schedule of fighter aircrafts like MiG-21 and MiG-27, the IAF now at a level of 34 squadrons could lose another 14 squadrons by 2024.
The top IAF official appeared frustrated at the pace the Indian private sector is responding to the opportunities from global majors under the new ‘Make in India’ scheme. He rhetorically asked, “Where are their collaborations on the big ticket items?”