In the midst of a raging controversy over Hindustan Aeronautics Limited or HAL not getting the offset contract in the Rafale deal, Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa on Wednesday said the state of relations between the air force and the public sector firm was not meant for public consumption but felt that the company lagged in meeting some production targets.
"Whether we are happy or unhappy with the HAL is a matter of internal debate. It is not for public debate," he said in New Delhi in response to a media query about the state-owned aircraft manufacturer kept out of the Rafale offset deal.
Asked what he thought of the HAL's capabilities, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said that the company had provided tremendous support to the air force, though it was lagging in meeting its production targets.
"There has been a slight lag in the delivery schedule of HAL of the contract that they already executed. Sukhoi-30 are three years behind schedule as 25 aircraft are yet to be delivered."
"Similarly, in Jaguar, we are six years behind, in LCA (light combat aircraft) we are five years behind, in Mirage-2000 upgrade we are two years behind," he said.
"As far as overall production goes, they (HAL) have met all production targets. In the last financial year, they have met their production target...It is because of their support that we could maintain such a high serviceability and high rate of dispatch of aircraft," the IAF chief said.
Questions were raised about the capability of HAL when a private firm was preferred over it for the approximately Rs 30,000 crore offset contract. The state-owned firm was the expected first choice for the contract.
The opposition has been accusing the Centre for denying HAL the contract and giving it to a newly-incorporated private firm.
The government has denied any role in the offset contract, saying it was Dassault Aviation, the French manufacturer of the Rafale aircraft, that made the choice.
Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa, too, on Wednesday said that it was a "corporate decision" made by the manufacturer (Dassault) to give the offset contract to a private firm.
"The manufacturer has to choose the offset partner. The government or the IAF has nothing to do with it," he said.