Slamming the Congress for criticising the Rafale deal in the run up to the Gujarat elections, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said that in India, purchases of fighter aircraft is, unluckily, considered on par with buying pulses.
The former Defence Minister also said, that while buying fighter planes, the plane itself may cost less than its hi-tech accessories.
He also slammed his predecessor A.K. Antony for his questionable remarks on the Rafale purchase deal, which the then Minister had said was in violation of vigilance guidelines and had delayed the purchase considerably.
“I am explaining this only to make you understand that an aircraft may cost 92 million Euros, but the other components will cost you 150 million Euros because you have to make it fighting fit. Unluckily we in India deal with aircraft purchases, or the fighter purchases like we think of tur dal and moong dal. They are not,” he said.
Elaborating on the intricacies of the Rafale deal, between the Indian and the French government for 36 fighters at a cost of Rs 58,000 crore, Parrikar said that the aircraft’s actual cost is much lower than the price of other special equipment, which is also a part of the deal.
“I was watching many of the Congress stalwarts talking about Rafale in Gujarat election and I realised these people don’t know anything about defence. A fight aircraft is not only aircraft. Aircraft is probably smaller part of the total cost. The real cost comes in special equipment,” Parrikar said.
“How many of you know that this particular deal has a helmet to be worn by the pilot and a target was locked by just watching at the target. It is a virtually 360 degree visibility. The pilot doesn’t have to actually check up. You must have seen on many movies, pilot locking the opponent on his radar and then firing. Here he didn’t have to do that. He has to just watch,” he said.
“Our Rafale’s will be coming with this equipment. You watch the opponent’s target more or less and press the button, the computer does the rest. So you have an advantage of 10 to 15 seconds over your… That cost of development of helmet is included,” he added.
Parrikar also said that the Indian Air Force was strategically on the backfoot compared to its Pakistani counterparts vis a vis beyond visual range missiles and that the lacunae was plugged with the purchase of the Meteor missile, under the deal.
He claimed that between 1999 and 2014 till Narendra Modi came, Pakistan had acquired a capacity of 100 km range, whereas India had upgraded their BVR weaponry to only 60 km on the Su-30s. “So we were now, in danger of being shot down by Pakistani fighters staying 100 km away and not being able to retaliate. Meteor does take care of that with 150 km range,” he said.
Parrikar also singled out Antony for his “strange” noting on the Rafale purchase deal file, which had said “start discussion, finalise price and after everything is finished, please come back to me with all the documentary evidence how Dassault or the Rafale company was the lowest”, saying this had delayed the agreement.