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Rafale fighters quietly fly into India amid uproar over alleged scam

By IANS Updated: Sep 05, 2018 11:50 pm

New Delhi, Sep. 5 (IANS): Three Rafale jets quietly flew into India for a three-day halt at military bases in a low-key military diplomatic affair, apparently due to the political storm raging over alleged irregularities in the purchase of the fighter aircraft from a French firm.
The three Rafale jets flown by the French Air Force (FAF) pilots were returning from Exercise Pitch Black 2018 at Darwin in Australia, in which 16 nations from across the globe, including the Indian Air Force, had taken part.

The Rafale fighter aircraft and transport aircraft staged through Air Force Station, Gwalior, and Air Force Station, Agra, from September 1-4, an IAF spokesperson said.

The French jets took off on Tuesday evening from Gwalior. The Maharajpur airbase in Gwalior is home to two Mirage 2000 squadrons. Both the Mirage and Rafale are manufactured by the same French maker – Dassault Aviation.

“During the staging period, FAF and IAF carried out basic joint training, which included fighter sorties by pilots in their respective aircraft with observers onboard each other’s transport aircraft supporting the missions.

“This interaction with FAF provided a unique opportunity for exchange of experience and sharing of best practices during cooperative deployment,” the spokesperson said.

During the military drill in Australia, it is believed that Indian Su-30 fighter pilots flew in the same three Rafales.
Though a picture of one of the three jets in India had emerged on the social media on Tuesday, the official announcement regarding their stay was only made a day after their departure.

Apparently, the halt of Rafale jets was not announced in advance because of the allegations of massive irregularities in the Rafale deal. The Congress has maintained that the Modi government was procuring each aircraft at a cost higher than the rate finalised by the UPA government.

SC to hear plea seeking stay on Rafale deal next week

The Supreme Court Wednesday agreed to hear next week a plea seeking a stay on the Rafale fighter jet deal between India and France.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud considered the submissions of advocate M L Sharma that his plea be listed for urgent hearing.

In his petition, Sharma has alleged discrepancies in the fighter jet deal with France and sought a stay on it.
Sharma has claimed in his plea that the inter-government agreement to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets must be quashed as it was an “outcome of corruption” and not ratified by Parliament under Article 253 (Parliament has power to make any law for implementing any inter-government agreement) of the Constitution.

The petition has also sought FIR and prosecution of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former defence Minister and present Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, business tycoon Anil Ambani and French armament firm Dassault with recovery of amount.

A similar plea was filed in the apex court in March this year seeking an independent probe into the Rafale deal and disclosure of the cost involved in the deal before Parliament.

The plea, filed by Congress leader Tehseen S Poonawalla, had sought issuance of a direction against the Centre as to why the Union Cabinet’s approval was not sought as part of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) before signing the procurement deal with France on September 23, 2016.

Rafale deal is a defence agreement signed between the governments of India and France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircrafts in a fly-away condition as a part of the upgrading process of Indian Air Force equipment.

The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation.
Indian Air Force had advanced a proposal to buy 126 fighter aircraft in August 2007 and floated a tender. Following this, an invitation was sent to various aviation companies to participate in the bidding process.

Poonawalla had claimed in his plea that the MoD had withdrawn the 2007 tender for procurement of 126 fighter planes, while the deal announced for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft was altogether a fresh procurement.

His plea said that in 2012, the deal for 126 fighter aircrafts was proposed by then UPA government, and out of the total of 126 number, 18 Rafale fighter jets were to be delivered by Dassault Aviation company in a fly-away condition, while the remaining 108 were to be manufactured in India at the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) under a transfer of technology agreement.

By IANS Updated: Sep 05, 2018 11:50:28 pm