The Rafale aircraft that India purchased for its Air Force was rejected four times during the trial phase following which a preferential treatment was accorded to the French manufacturer Dassault Aviation to make the aircraft eligible for contention in the field trials, says the Comptroller and Auditor General in its report.
Within a span of a year between May 2008 and May 2009, the aircraft was rejected four times due to deficiencies in technical evaluation.
Weeks before a final decision was to be taken by then defence minister A K Antony to keep the French aircraft out of contention, the ministry received a suo-moto proposal from the company, which stated that it was willing to modify the aircraft to meet all the ASQR (air staff qualitative requirements) parameters and was willing to comply with all RFP (request for proposal) requirements.
Initially, there was nine deficiencies but during discussions between the defence ministry and Dassault officials, five additional deficiencies were found.
The French company agreed to rectify them but decided to put up a price tag.
Later, it dubbed making-up these deficiencies as “India-specific enhancements” and charged extra.
Many of these 14 parameters were not found in Rafale, but were there in other five aircraft that were in the contention.
“The Indian requirements, while they might not have been available in Rafale, were not unique because most of these features were available in the other five aircraft (F-16, F-18/A, Grippen, Eurofighter and MiG-35) that were evaluated. For instance, Helmet Mounted Display was available in all modern fighter aircraft including Eurofighter,” the CAG says in its report tabled in the Parliament on Wednesday.
“The opportunity provided to Dassault Aviation to significantly modify its technical and price bid was in violation of Defence Procurement Procedure 2006. Dassault Aviation was treated preferentially,” the audit watchdog points out.
While all the six aircraft participated in the Field Evaluation Trials conducted by the Indian Air Force, two planes— Eurofighter and Rafale— were cleared based on their presentation in the lab as to how they proposed to meet the shortcomings in meeting certain ASQRs.
The two aircraft were technically accepted without evaluating the significant modification/ enhancements made on them whereas other four were rejected in field trials as they could not meet the ASQR parameters of “Growth Potential” and “Design Maturity”.
The UPA government couldn't conclude the 126 fighter jet deal. The NDA government junked the earlier proposal and purchased 36 Rafale aircraft in flyaway condition from France in a government to government contract.