Saturday, December 2, 2023

Politics of procurement: From Bofors to Rafaels

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In a major boost to defense capabilities in the backdrop of Chinese intimidation, three Rafael jets are flying from France to India. The Rafale fighter jets will join the Golden Arrows Squadron in Ambala, making the squadron strength 14. The jets will arrive straight from France and will be refueled in the air. In addition, the squadron’s size would increase to 14 with the new induction.

Rafale fighter jets began landing in India in July and August 2020, where they will be used to patrol the China front. Rafale fighter jets are stationed in Eastern Ladakh and other China fronts.The next batch consisting of 9 aircraft is scheduled to take off next month, out of which five will be inducted at Hashimara airbase in the North Bengal region. The Rafael air jets are designed for optimum damage to the adversary and are equipped with top-of-the-line smart weapons.

Emmanuel Lenain, French Envoy to India, on Wednesday said that all 36 Rafael jets will be handed over to India by 2022 as per contract, in spite of Covid-19. Out of 21 Rafael delivered to India, 11 already ferried to India, 3 are being ferried right now and 5 extra will be ferried by end of April. He further underlined that by the year 2022, all 36 aircrafts will have been delivered as per contract. 

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In the mountainous Tibet region, Rafales has a strategic edge for aerial combat with China. It can destroy the enemy’s air defense and kill surface-to-air missiles from its fleet and has the potential to attack both on land and at sea. It is also crucial for patrolling along the China front in Eastern Ladakh, as well as other fronts too. Moreover, Rafales can strike Pakistani planes inside Pakistani airspace, and even not once they can reach Indian territory. Last but not the least, Rafales have the advantage of working in unusual situations, such as the OPS from Leh.

Despite its strategic viability, Rafales have found themselves in a myriad of controversies including favouring a particular entity, bribery, accusation against PM over price, Ambani family’s links to the ruling party among others, drawing a direct link to Bofors scandal during Rajiv Gandhi tenure.

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