Says the Air Force is reeling under a severe shortage of fighter aircraft at a time India faces security challenges from two nuclear-powered neighbours
PTI, NEW DELHI: Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa Wednesday stoutly defended the government's decision to procure only two squadrons of Rafale jets against the original proposal of 126 aircraft, saying there have been similar "emergency" acquisitions in the past.
The Air Force is reeling under a severe shortage of fighter aircraft at a time India faces security challenges from two nuclear-powered neighbours, he said, adding that the purchase of 36 Rafale jets (two squadrons) will help the force deal with the situation.
One squadron of fighter jets comprises 16-18 aircraft.
"Whenever the government felt the airpower element of the defence forces is likely to be in a disadvantageous position, it has gone in for emergency purchases of the aircraft under the umbrella of the inter-governmental agreement," Dhanoa said, addressing a seminar on IAF's force restructuring.
"The history is that the government had undertaken emergency purchase of fighter aircraft on several occasions in the past," he said.
The IAF chief said, "By providing the Rafale and S-400, the government is strengthening the IAF to counter the shortfalls of our depleting numbers."
Asked at the seminar whether IAF has a plan to procure two more squadrons of Rafale jets, Deputy Chief of Air Staff R Nambiar said the force wanted 126 Rafale jets. He said IAF is in the process of 114 fighter jets and Rafale would be one of the contenders for it.
Sources said Nambiar is flying to France on Sunday to review various technical tests on the Rafale jets being readied for supply to India.
The previous UPA government was negotiating a deal with French aerospace giant Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale, for procurement of 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA). However the deal could not be sealed.
According to the proposal, Dassault Aviation was to supply 18 Rafale jets in fly-away condition while 108 aircraft was to be manufactured in India by the company along with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).