Dassault is set to deliver the Rafale fighters to India in fly-away condition September onwards
Amid a massive political war between the Centre and the Opposition over the Rafale fighter jet deal, three Rafale aircraft touched down in Bengaluru today for the biennial five-day Aero Show that begins next week. While two of these French-made fighters will be used for flying exercises, the third one will just be used for static display, according to reports.
The advanced fourth generation fighters landed at the Yelahanka Air Force Station on the outskirts of Bengaluru, where the 12th edition of the Aero India show will take place from February 20-24.
However, these three Rafale jets are not the ones that have been made for India by French aerospace major Dassault. "Rafale for India will not be ready by February. We expect Dassault to fly some other Rafale at the Aero India show here on February 20-24, 2019," Deputy Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal R.K. Singh Bhadauria had said in October last year.
Dassault is set to deliver four Rafale fighters to India in September; they will be tested before being flown. These jets will partly replace the ageing Russian-built MiG-21 fighters that are being phased out. The twin-engine, multi-role fighter can carry out attacks both air-to-air and air-to-ground.
The Rafale jets arrived in India on a day when the national auditor, the Comptroller and Auditor General or CAG, said in its report that the Rafale deal negotiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is 2.8 per cent cheaper than the one negotiated by the previous Congress-led UPA government.
The report, submitted in the Rajya Sabha today, does not include the contentious point of pricing, since the Defence Ministry maintains that these details cannot be revealed. The report has been dismissed by the opposition as biased.
The Congress alleges that the government went for an overpriced deal for Rafale jets to benefit Anil Ambani, whose Reliance Defence is one of the offset partners for Rafale maker Dassault. Both Dassault and Anil Ambani have denied the Congress allegations.
The Supreme Court in December refused to investigate the deal worth an alleged 8.7 billion dollars and rejected petitions that alleged corruption, including the choice of Anil Ambani's firm as domestic partner. But the opposition says the government concealed vital information.
With inputs from agencies
Disclaimer: NDTV has been sued for 10,000 crores by Anil Ambani's Reliance Group for its coverage of the Rafale deal