HAL Could Have Built Rafale Fighters In India, Says Former Chief T Suvarna Raju


New Delhi: T Suvarna Raju, who was heading Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) till recently, said that HAL could have built Rafale fighters in India, had the government managed to close the original negotiations with Dassault and had actually signed a work-share contract with the French company. He questioned why the Union government was not putting out the files in public.

He admitted that HAL may not have been able to build the planes at the desired “cost-per-piece”, one of the reasons why that deal fell through, but insisted that the company has the ability to make advanced fighters.

A former air chief, however, said making the Rafale would have been a challenge for the public sector undertaking.

“When HAL can build a 25-tonne Sukhoi-30, a fourth-generation fighter jet that forms the mainstay of the air force, from raw material stage, then what are we talking about? We could have definitely done it (licence produced the Rafale jets),” said Raju, who retired on September 1.

This is the first time anyone from the state-owned aircraft maker has publicly commented on the questions around the deal. His comments come even as the politics around the Rafale deal show no signs of dying down.

The government and the Congress have been trading charges over the controversial Rs 59,000-crore purchase almost every day. On Tuesday, defence minister Niramala Sitharaman said HAL was “dropped” from the deal when the UPA was in power, because it couldn’t agree on terms of production with Dassault.

The NDA government’s decision to enter into a government-to-government deal with France to buy 36 Rafale warplanes was announced in April 2015 with the deal signed a little over a year later. This replaced the UPA regime’s decision to buy 126 Rafale aircraft, 108 of which were to be made in India by HAL using parts imported from France.

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