Lamenting the Rafale acquisition
S M Hali


Nearly six weeks after the Indian Air Force (debacle) at Balakot and the Line of Control, Indian Air Chief, in a fit of despair, continues to lie through his teeth as far as the success of the IAF operations on 26 and 27 February are concerned. Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa claims victory but his exasperation is evident from the way he laments the tardy acquisition of the advanced Rafale fighter jets from France. Trying to pull wool over the eyes of India’s domestic audience, even though international aviation and strategic experts have exposed Indian lies, Dhanoa continues harping on fictitious claims. Acting upon the Chanakyan dictum of repeating a lie so often till appears to be the truth, the Indian Air Chief, speaking at the Marshal of Air Force Arjan Singh Centenary Seminar on aerospace power claims that the pre-dawn strikes at Balakot were a huge success. The IAF stated that its fighter bombers delivered precision stand-off weapons (Spice-2000 bombs) with “great accuracy” at the Balakot terror facility since it had technology on its side and had also “come out better” in the subsequent aerial skirmish because it had upgraded its Mirage-2000s. “The results would have been further skewed in our favour had we inducted our Rafale aircraft in time,” he said, adding the proposed induction of the 36 French fighters (for Rs 40,000 crore) over the next two to four years would “once again tilt the technological balance in our favour”.

Dhanoa remains oblivious to the fact that DG ISPR conducted international and domestic media as well as foreign diplomats accredited to Islamabad at a tour of Balakot, the target of the IAF “surgical strike” while US and British experts scrutinized satellite images of the seminary alleged to be a Jaish-e-Muhammad terror training camp. The visitors to Balakot and international experts came to unanimous conclusion that the IAF strikes on 26 February were botched while on 27 February IAF was badly mauled. One MiG-21 Bison fighter aircraft was shot down and its debris landed in Pakistani territory. Its pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan was captured alive. Another IAF fighter aircraft SU-30 was also shot down in the melee but its debris landed in Indian Occupied Kashmir.

India continues to deny any other losses although it lost two of its fighter aircraft in a mid-air collision, an MI-17 Military Helicopter with seven senior military personnel on board, was shot down by its own air defence system while two days later another fighter aircraft crashed. IAF is in a comedy of errors but ACM Dhanoa persistently claims that Wing Commander Abhinandan shot down a PAF F-16 before going down himself. Neither Abhinandan made any such claim while he was in Pakistani custody nor after returning to India. “But we got an aircraft too, which electronic signatures suggest was an F-16. But to shift the narrative to this air combat from not being able to achieve your military objective is obfuscating the issue…” harps Dhanoa.

To nail the Indian Air Chief’s lie about the IAF kill, Pakistan Army collected the missile pods from the MiG-21 shot down by PAF and displayed that none of them had been fired

To nail the Indian Air Chief’s lie about the IAF kill, Pakistan Army collected the missile pods from the MiG-21 shot down by PAF and displayed that none of them had been fired. The US, which has the right to inspect the F-16 fleet as per the end-user agreement, sent two separate officials to Pakistan, who individually carried out a tally of the F-16s in Pakistan Air Force inventory and found all of them to be present, safe and accounted for. ACM Dhanoa should be well aware of the end-user agreement since India too has procured US weapons and is subject to the same checks and balances.

As far as the acquisition of Rafale fighter aircraft is concerned, the deal is fraught with controversies and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had to bear the brunt of the scandal. the Congress has alleged the 36-Rafale deal inked by the NDA government in September 2016 was vastly overpriced, violated defence procurement procedures, included no transfer of technology, and was intended to benefit the Anil Ambani- promoted Reliance Defence as the “offsets partner” of the French fighter manufacturer Dassault Aviation. The NDA government, on its part, asserts it secured a “better deal” for the 36 Rafales in terms of price, capability, equipment, delivery and maintenance than the one “notionally being negotiated” by the previous UPA regime for 126 Rafale jets under the now-scrapped MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project.

As for the Triumf Russian S-400 Missile system, India barely escaped being sanctioned under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which was signed into law in August 2017 and went into effect in January 2018, mandates the Trump administration to punish entities engaging in a significant transaction with the defence or intelligence sectors of Russia.