Air Force needs fighters but India debates the Rafale deal

    A combat aircraft is an essential element in a modern country’s arsenal. Rafale is a state of the art fighter plane. But in India it is the face of political controversy. Ironically the fight is not on the merit of the equipment. It is about alleged irregularities in the aircraft purchase.

    Transparency in any government deal is paramount and it is the job of the opposition to ensure that the exchequer’s money is not ill-spent, but our country’s defence cannot be held hostage to the outcome of politicking.

    While many serving as well as the retired men of uniform have vouched for the deal, on Wednesday the highest ranking officer – the Air Chief – defended the government’s decision to buy 36 of these jets.

    In Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa words: The Air Force is reeling under a severe shortage of fighter aircraft at a time India faces security challenges from two nuclear-powered neighbours, adding that the purchase of 36 Rafale jets (two squadrons) will help the Indian Air Force deal with the situation.

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    Moreover, a delay in the delivery of the aircraft (irrespective of manufacturer) may lower the morale of our armed forces and make our borders more vulnerable in a volatile neighbourhood.

    The Congress, which chose Rafale in 2012, over rival offers from the United States, Europe and Russia and decided to buy 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), has been alleging massive irregularities in the deal and has attacked the government for procuring just 36 jets when the Air Force required 126.

    The current government, that signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016, to buy 36 off-the-shelf Rafale fighters for about Rs 58,000 crore, says the deal is above board.

    Meanwhile our brave men in uniform who pilot the flying coffins, for the want of better equipment, wait for the slugfest to end, so that they can keep vigil on the land without losing their lives flying antiquated aircrafts.

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