New Delhi: A top Indian Air Force (IAF) officer today punctured Rahul Gandhi-led Congress's claim that the UPA government was about to sign a deal with France for 126 Rafale jets, saying the deal that was being negotiated by the Congress-led government was stuck over "irresolvable differences" between aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation and proposed Indian partner Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

"The MMRCA (Medium-Multirole Combat Aircraft) case reached an impasse due to irresolvable differences between Dassault Aviation and the HAL with respect to higher non-recurring cost for creating new production facilities for Rafale plane in the HAL. The dispute between the two proposed partners as to who would take the responsibility of the 108 Rafale planes to be manufactured in India by the HAL could not be resolved. After that, the Request for Proposal was withdrawn in June 2015," Central Air Force Commander Air Marshal SBP Sinha said here.

The officer very clearly said that though the price of the 18 planes to be supplied directly by the vendor in a flyaway condition was known, the Ministry of Defence could never know the price of the entire deal as the project was stuck over the terms and conditions and cost of the 108 planes to be manufactured in India.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi had recently gone to the extent of claiming that his party's government had signed a contract for Rafale planes at Rs 520 crore per aircraft while alleging that the Narendra Modi government had inflated the prices of the plane to favour private vendors!

The facts presented by the top IAF officer have yet again punctured the Congress's claims that it was about to sign the deal with France and is also comparing the price of the planes it was negotiating for with the per unit price of the 36 Rafales that are being acquired by the Modi government through an inter-governmental deal with France.

The Congress has been alleging that the per unit price of the Rafale planes being acquired by it was Rs 520 core whereas the Modi government bought it for Rs 1,646 crore. Worse, Rahul Gandhi’s party has been alleging that there is a scam in the deal.
However, after the revelation by the Air Marshal, it has now become clear that the Congress claims are an attempt to create a controversy when there is none, a senior Air Force officer said at the condition of anonymity.

The IAF has been defending the Rafale deal as the controversy around the issue is likely to affect the future acquisition of these planes by the service.

Deputy Chief Air Marshal Raghunath Nambiar said, "The IAF would have loved to have 126 Rafales," when asked whether the service wanted at least two more squadrons of these planes in its inventory.

Air Marshal Sinha praised the contract for 36 Rafale signed by the Modi government, saying this was the first time that the maintenance of the planes was covered under the Performance Based Logistics (PBL) agreement. Otherwise, it can create issues later.”

Sinha was the initial chairman of the Contracts Negotiations Committee for the acquisition of 36 planes and was later replaced by Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria. At present, Air Marshal R Nambiar is the Deputy Chief of Air Staff; he handles procurement in the force.

Nambiar had recently clarified that the Rafale deal by the Modi government was 40% cheaper than what was being negotiated by the Congress government and the claims made by the Congress did not match the facts.