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Deal to procure Rafale, BRAHMOS air-version top priority: NAK Browne

Air chief marshal NAK Browne during a press conference at Aero India 2013.

BANGALORE (BNS): The deal for procuring 126 French- made Rafale multirole combat aircraft is the highest priority for the Indian Air Force. BRAHMOS air launched cruise missile is next on the priority list, said Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, against the backdrop of a cut in the defence budget, during a press conference at Yelahanka on Thursday.

The IAF chief said the contract negotiations for the Rafale deal were going on track and it was expected to be finalised by the middle of this year.

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.

He said the engines on the Chinese machine seemed to be Russian DPK-02, which are also used to power the Ilyushin-76 aircraft but not as good as the ones on the C-17.

The IAF chief said it is to be seen how it performs the strategic roles in the future.

On the Israeli 'Iron Dome' missile protection system, he said it was used effectively against the Palestinian small rocket attacks but Indian borders were far too long.

He said the Iron Dome "was not an answer to the Indian environment."

Asked to explain his recent remark for imposing penalties on delays in completion of defence projects, Browne said such penalties were imposed in other countries and they act as a deterrent against such companies.

He suggested that a clause in this regard should be included in the Indian procurement procedures also.

On the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft programme, he said the project would enter the "mother of all phases" next month as India and Russia discuss the research and development phase of it.

Browne said the production of the aircraft is expected to begin only in 2022.

On the issue of setting up an aerospace command, Browne said the three services have been asked to submit separate proposals for creation of three commands- aerospace, cyber and special forces- as per their domain of expertise.

He said the Army has been given the responsibility for special forces command, the Navy will take care of the cyber security command, while the IAF will handle the aerospace command.

Browne said the proposals were expected soon and once they were ready these would be sent to the government for approval of the chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee.

On reports suggesting that deal for procurement of 197 light helicopters was to be cancelled, Browne said the Defence Acquisition Council has to examine the whole case and it will look at the entire project.

Holding that the services have to be lean and mean, he said if the revenue expenditure is too large the modernisation will suffer.


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