Bangalore: The deal for procuring 126 French-made Rafale multi-role combat aircraft is the highest priority for the Indian Air Force (IAF) against the backdrop of a cut in the defence budget, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne said on Thursday.
The IAF chief said the contract negotiations for the deal were going on track and that it was expected to be finalized by the middle of this year. “The deal for procuring 126 multi-role combat aircraft is highest priority for us,” he told a press conference at the Aero India show here.
He listed the procurement of additional six C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, 22 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinook helicopters as the other priority areas for the force. The IAF chief was asked to list his force’s priorities in terms of procurement in view of the defence ministry directive in this regard in the wake of the budget-cut decision.
The ministry has asked the three services to first procure only those equipment which have a direct bearing on their operational preparedness.
Asked about the role of certain companies in the aircraft deal, he said, “The OEM (original equipment manufacturer) has full right to select partners if he wants to supply kits to the IAF. The IAF or the government have no issues with it.”
Browne made it clear that the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) would be lead integrator of the project. On the IAF’s plans to have more than 300-400 aircraft in the next ten years, he said this would include the 126 Rafale combat planes and several types of transport aircraft and helicopters which would be inducted in 10 to 12 years.