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Attempted break-in at IAF's Paris office handling Rafale procurement

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: May 22, 2019  | 20:43 IST

(Eds: With additional inputs) New Delhi, May 22 (PTI) In a suspected case of espionage, there was an attempted break-in on Sunday at the Indian Air Force's Paris office which is overseeing procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets for India, military sources said. A group of unidentified persons broke into the office of the IAF's Rafale project management team in the suburbs of Paris and local police are probing whether the attempt was to steal classified data relating to the aircraft, they said. "As per initial assessment, no data or hardware have been stolen. The local police are investigating the incident," said a source. The sources said the IAF has briefed the defence ministry about the incident and that the Indian mission in Paris has been in touch with French authorities. The IAF's office of Rafale project management is located at the complex of Dassault Aviation, the makers of the Rafale jets. There was no official reaction from either the defence ministry or the IAF about the incident. Sources said stealing of any data relating to the weapons package or avionics of the Rafale jets may have serious implications. The IAF project management team is headed by an IAF Group Captain and it comprises two fighter pilots, one logistics officer and a number of weapons experts and engineers. The team is coordinating with Dassault Aviation on manufacture of Rafale jets as well as on weapons package onboard the aircraft. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the procurement of a batch of 36 Rafale jets after talks with the then French President Francois Hollande on April 10, 2015 in Paris. The final deal, worth Rs 56,000 crore, was sealed on September 23, 2016. The Congress has been alleging massive irregularities in the deal and has been targeting the government over selection of Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Defence as an offset partner for Dassault Aviation. The government has rejected the allegations. The first Rafale aircraft is scheduled to be delivered in September. Weeks after India's Balakot strikes, IAF chief BS Dhanoa said India could have achieved better results if the country had Rafale jets. PTI MPB ZMN

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