French Ambassador to India, Alexandre Ziegler Thursday rubbished a news report which claimed Pakistani exchange officers received training in France to fly the Rafale jets sold to Qatar.
“I can confirm that it is fake news,” Ziegler tweeted in response to a February 13 news report by aviation news site, ainonline. French diplomatic sources confirmed to news agency PTI that no Pakistani pilots ever trained on Rafale jets in France.
The news report had noted that the first batch of pilots trained in November 2017 in France were Pakistani exchange officers. “Escadron de Chasse 04.030 was established at Mont-de-Marsan as the Qatar Rafale Squadron on Oct. 1, 2017,” the report said.
The aviation site also noted that training would be imparted to around 250 Qatari personnel under the SOUTEX program. The pilots will man the first Qatari Rafale squadron, ainonline stated. “French officer until later this year when command will be transferred to a Qatari officer before the unit transfers to Qatar in the summer of 2020,” it read.
In 2015, Qatar agreed to buy 24 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault Aviation in a 6.3-billion-euro deal. It ordered 12 additional fighter jets in 2017. The first Rafale jet was handed over to Qatar at a ceremony in February.
The controversy comes in the midst of a simmering political slugfest over procurement of Rafale jets by the Modi government from France. India is procuring a batch of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France at a cost of Rs 58,000 crore. The Congress has been alleging massive irregularities in the deal while the government has strongly rejected the charges.