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Is Indian Air Force Naming Rafale After a Serving Air Marshal?

The identical tweets by defence journalists are a telling comment on their knowledge.

A few journalists, who report on national security and defence matters, posted nearly identical tweets on Wednesday morning, which claimed that Indian Air Force (IAF) had named the first two-seater Rafale fighter jet made for India as RB008, where RB stands for Air Marshal Rakesh Bhaduria who had played a major role in the negotiations in the controversial deal with France.

While these nearly-identical tweets showed by the two defence journalists showed a similar source of information, they were soon corrected by a retired Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur, who is currently the Additional Director General of Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), an IAF think tank. Bahadur explained that “The IAF numbers its aircraft thru an official process. The ‘alpha’ part of the alpha numeric TAIL NUMBER, represents the fleet – here R represents Rafale, and B means a two seat trainer version – unless RB has been chosen to represent the fleet.”

The two defence journalists had not corrected their tweets till this story was uploaded. But it shows up the kind of coverage of Rafale deal done by most media outlets. Rafale deal has been a controversial deal where former French President Francois Hollande stated, and reiterated, that Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence was chosen as an offset partner by Dassault because Modi government made that a condition as part of a new formula for buying 36 French fighter jets.

Supreme Court has also raised questions about the rationale for buying only 36 Rafale fighter jets, a question the government has to answer to the petitioners in the case. The apex court has also asked for the price of the Rafale aircraft and how it was better, and this information is to be submitted in a sealed envelope. The matter will be heard by the Chief Justice next week.

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In addition, there is an unexplained investment of Rs 294 crore made by Dassault in another loss-making Anil Ambani company, Reliance Airports, which has no projects in hand and no viable future. Dassault has never made such investments anywhere else, whether in India or globally, raising question marks about the money and its connection with the Rafale deal. The deal for 36 Rafale aircraft was announced by PM Narendra Modi in Paris in April 2015, even though his foreign secretary S Jaishankar had explicitly ruled out any Rafale discussion only two days earlier.

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