As three Rafale fighter jets were displayed at the mega Aero India show in Bengaluru today amid a huge political controversy, the French envoy to India rejected allegations of corruption in the multi-billion dollar fighter jet deal with India. The ambassador said the "very good" aircraft is expected to join the Indian Air Force within six months.
"I do not see any scandal. What I see is a very good aircraft which has been purchased by Government of India. The aircraft will probably come here (Bengaluru) first and will join the Indian Air Force within six months," French ambassador Alexandre Ziegler told news agency ANI on the sidelines of Aero India in Bengaluru.
The Congress alleges that the government went for an overpriced deal for Rafale jets to benefit industrialist Anil Ambani, whose Reliance Defence is one of the offset partners for Rafale maker Dassault. Both Dassault and Anil Ambani have denied the Congress allegations.
India had signed a deal for France in 2016 for for 36 Rafale fighter jets.
At the air show, the Rafale aircraft was a clear winner, with daring feats at the aerial display visitors' area.
Three Rafale aircraft touched down at the Yelahanka airbase in Bengaluru last week for the biennial five-day air show. While two of these French-made fighters were used for flying exercises, the third one is just being used for static display.
However, these three Rafale jets are not the ones that have been made for India by French aerospace major Dassault. "Rafale for India will not be ready by February. We expect Dassault to fly some other Rafale at the Aero India show here...," Deputy Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal RK Singh Bhadauria had said in October last year.
The Rafale jets landed in India on a day when the national auditor, the Comptroller and Auditor General or CAG, said in its report that the Rafale deal negotiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is 2.8 per cent cheaper than the one negotiated by the previous Congress-led UPA government.
Dassault is set to deliver four Rafale fighters to India in September; they will be tested before being flown. These jets will partly replace the ageing Russian-built MiG-21 fighters that are being phased out. The twin-engine, multi-role fighter can carry out attacks both air-to-air and air-to-ground.
The fighter jet is a twin-engine Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft, which security analysts believe can be a ''game-changer'' for India's defence system.
(With inputs from ANI)