An alternate view on the Rafale Deal
On March 06, 2015, Mr. Bharat Karnad wrote in the New Indian Express (NIE) an article demanding the termination of Rafale Deal between India and France. It was shocking to note that in this article this columnist of stature and the said respected national daily descended to a level of launching a mean personal attack on an officer of the stature of the Chief of the Indian Air Force (IAF). In the lead article on the edit page in the ‘Opinion Column’ of NIE, Mr. Karnad also demanded that Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha be dismissed from service, accusing him of gross incompetence, lacking in leadership and for failure to anticipate the unexpected and be prepared for it (meaning absence of an alternate plan for MMRCA purchase). Readers may like to note the contradictions as given below.
Air Chief Marshal Raha reached the topmost position in his Air Force career purely on merit through proper selection process, proving himself not only in flying and air strategy but also administration and personnel management.
Air Chief Marshal Raha is a specialist flyer and a professional air warfare strategist par excellence. He has reached the topmost position in his Air Force career purely on merit through proper selection process, proving himself not only in flying and air strategy but also administration and personnel management. His abilities in both command (leadership) and staff jobs are well proven over decades of his service in the Air Force in a highly competitive atmosphere.
It is not comprehensible as to with what knowledge, experience and authority can a mere educationist cum analyst assume himself to be capable of judging a specialist flyer, professional air warfare strategist, proven leader of men and a great administrator in such degradable terms. Likewise, it is impossible to comprehend as to with what justification can the popular Daily publish such utter non-sense. Freedom of expression doesn’t mean crossing limits of basic decency and good manners. Traditions of good journalism frown upon pontification and judgmental writing as also personal attacks, but the author has brazenly indulged in the same and the paper has proudly published the article in their most respected column. These wrong, revengeful and irresponsible remarks have the potential to shake the faith of Air Force personnel in their highest commander, affecting their morale. These men are required to obey his commands without question at a risk to their life in the defence of the nation. Wars are not won by soldiers in poor morale.
Reason given by Mr. Karnad for his extra ordinary outburst is the Air Chief’s reply to the Press during a casual discussion in an Aero-India 2015 event that there was no Plan B to the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) Deal, it being in its final phase of negotiation with Dassault Aviation of France. To me this statement simply means ‘we are not considering other alternatives at this point of time’.
Rafale is omnirole by design
As MMRCA Rafale fighter aircraft is designed for omnirole. It is capable of carrying out a wide range of missions. It can switch roles mid-air while airborne for a different mission. Rafale is designed for the following roles:
The MMRCA proposal itself contains six alternatives, out of which two have been recommended for selection by the IAF. That apart, the options of Su-30 MKI and Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) have been adequately discussed within themselves by the IAF and Ministry of Defence (MoD) and even commented upon in passing references by them. Thus the conclusion that the Air Chief had failed to prepare an alternative plan is patently wrong.
Surprisingly, the Government doesn’t appear to have considered some serious action against this act of gross misdemeanor against their Air Chief.
The writer has also accused the Air Chief of pressurizing the Government to accede to IAF’s desire for getting the ‘Rafale’ aircraft into their inventory by using the absence of a fallback scheme as a ‘ruse’. This implies that the IAF and its Chief are pursuing their own agenda at the cost of national interests. Besides, the esteemed columnist ridicules the very process of selection of the best among six finest fighter aircraft of the world, carried out rigorously by a whole lot of competent flying and technical professionals over two years. Worse, he declares that the requirement of the Air Force for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) itself as dubious. Under the circumstances, it is high time the Government sacked the entire Indian Air Force and put the country’s air warfare in the able hands of Mr. Bharat Karnad.
Will our contract with Dassault Aviation and the French Government be so loose that Dassault will supply to Qatar superior Rafales than what they will supply to India?
I am perplexed at the proclamation by this columnist that the older Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft beats the Rafale (more modern and omnirole by design) by any performance standard. It will be interesting to study the data used by the learned columnist to arrive at his conclusion. Worse, the very fighting qualities of the Rafale fighter aircraft have been questioned by him. The esteemed journalist needs to learn that Rafale has proved itself in various war theatres (2007 onwards-Afghanistan, 2011-Libya, 2013-Mali, 2014 onwards-Iraq etc.) and also in combined exercises with the best of the world’s fighters for comparison, with outstanding results. In depth research is not required. Any simple search on this subject on Google will prove this famed Professor wrong.
Su-30 MKI is a great aircraft in her own right, but there is another side too. It appears that the author is unaware of the poor serviceability record of our Su-30 fleet, regular engine problems occurring in flight and repeated auto-operation of its ejection seats or that the Su-30 is not a MMRCA.
Does the esteemed newspaper realize that their noted columnist is authoritatively and adversely commenting on the performance of the proud product of a leading, highly reputed and successful fighter aircraft manufacturer of the world? Are their columnist’s conclusions backed with proper research and study? The damaging and overly adverse comments made by the columnist and published by the popular Daily in their opinion column on the Edit Page could be questioned in a Court of Law.
The respectable author has accused the French vendors of delaying supply of material for our Scorpene Submarine manufacture in Mazgaon Docks in order to raise direct and indirect costs. This discovery is worth further investigation. The author and his publication must disclose the basis for such a serious accusation.
The noted columnist informs the readers of NIE that the French have hinted at further escalation of Rafale deal cost beyond US $ 30-35 billion. I wonder whether he has some foundation for making such a statement or an authority to speak on Dassault’s behalf!
The author asserts that Dassault won’t permit India to integrate our Brahmos missile with Rafale. Has Dassault authorized him to make such a statement on their behalf?
I question yet another group of ridiculous points raised in this article. Wherefrom has this noted journalist collected information that the Pakistani Air Force is running the Qatar Emiri Air Force itself as claimed in this article? Training, yes, not running! Would the Hon’ble Professor be generous enough to teach us, his readers, as to how can the employees of the defence services of one country operate the defence services of another country as easily as that without a treaty to that effect? There may be retired PAF personnel employed by Qatar not serving.
Also, can Qatari Rafales really be switched to Pakistani Air Force to fight against India in case of India-Pakistan hostilities? Is there any such understanding between these two countries? This secret is perhaps known only to the author and his esteemed publishers. Lending fighter aircraft to Pakistan to fight against India would amount to an act of open war between India and Qatar. India is not a banana republic to be treated like that. In my analysis, Qatar may give some covert support to a fellow Islamic nation but will not openly join Pakistan in war against us.
Will our contract with Dassault Aviation and the French Government be so loose that Dassault will supply to Qatar superior Rafales than what they will supply to India? The writer appears to be oblivious to the fact that manufacturers of class and status follow and practice proper business ethics. Contrary to his flawed conclusion, there is no likelihood that Dassault will ever give their biggest customer cum co-producer and a country which has a proven record of air combat victories, an inferior product, Saudi financing notwithstanding.
Can Qatari Rafales really be flown to Pakistan for disassembly for the purpose of scrutiny by Chinese engineers and/or flown to Chengdu in China for reverse engineering at will as stated in the said column? Will France permit such non-sense? There are international laws, regulations and contractual obligations. Qatar and Pakistan will not be permitted to act so rogue by France, the international community and UN.
Contrary to the esteemed analyst’s assertion, the survivability of Rafale is found to be excellent as proved in many wars and exercises involving aircraft like the top of the line…
The author asserts that Dassault won’t permit India to integrate our Brahmos missile with Rafale. Has Dassault authorized him to make such a statement on their behalf? Alternatively, on what grounds does he attribute such anti-Indian intentions to Dassault and in turn to France?
Before commenting on the survivability of Rafale against Chinese sophisticated air defence, it would have been more pertinent for the learned Professor to have studied the various aspects of the Rafale fighter aircraft such as : omnirole by design appreciated by experts and countries worldwide, superb & integrated avionics: excellent long range Thales RBE2AA Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar & passive OSF visual & infrared wavelengths sensors, state of the art SPECTRA Electronic Warfare Suite, world’s latest and finest weaponry that includes beyond the visual range stand-off guided missiles, nuclear capability, stealth features, hands off fully Automatic Flight Control (AFC) system, which is extremely useful in final attack run in hostile air space and/or get away mode at ultra low level under hot pursuit. AFC is available in Rafale in two alternate modes: digital terrain following and radar terrain following.
An intelligent use of offensive & defensive weapons, active & passive electronic warfare measures/counter-measures, long range total situational awareness advising the pilot well in advance to timely choose and fire appropriate weapons/counter-weapons as also when to turn round/get away and rapid changes in tactics suitable to changing battlefield situations, all put together contribute to survivability. Contrary to the esteemed analyst’s assertion, the survivability of Rafale is found to be excellent as proved in many wars and exercises involving aircraft like the top of the line F-22 Raptors and older but proven F-16s, F/A-18s and modern Typhoons, Grippens as also Sukhoi-30s. Take it from me, Rafale is indeed designed for penetration into hostile air space defended by sophisticated modern air defence systems.
I wonder if this article of Mr. Bharat Karnad published by the NIE is a scholar’s thinking gone haywire or whether it was done with a specific ‘motive’ to get the Rafale deal terminated! I hope vested interests are not at work. I rest my case.
The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.