Describing the Rafale fighter jets as “exceptional”, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha on Tuesday said the force would like to have more of the aircraft and insisted that the recently signed contract for 36 fighters was better than other such deals.
He also spoke about “unsolicited offers” that India has received from Boeing, Saab and Locheed Martin to manufacture fighter aircraft in India and said the company which offers the best deal will be selected.
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He said Saab’s Gripen is a “good fighter” as compared to others like F-16 of Lockheed Martin but the decision will depend on many factors.
“Any air force will be proud to have aircraft of the Rafale class which is in mid-weight category. In terms of its weapons capability, air-to-air missiles, beyond visual range, air-to-ground, its avionics, instrumentation and warfare suite, it is exceptional and one of the leading aircraft of the current generation,” Raha said.
Asked if 18 more aircraft would be procured, he said, “Well, we would like to have more. But it is a decision that will be taken in the near future.”
The 7.878 billion Euros (Rs 59,000 crore) deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets was signed on September 23. The new planes will give a big boost to IAF’s defence and strike power.
The most important aspect of the deal, apart from the fact that the Rafale is a 4.5 generation fighter jet, is the firepower that India is getting in the form of long-range and Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles.
Rafale jets will come equipped with state-of-the-art missiles such as Meteor and Scalp. Meteor is a BVR air-to-air missile with a range in excess of 150km.
“It is better in terms of price, performance-based logistics, missiles among others,” he said on the Rafale deal in comparison to the MMRCA tender and deals signed by France with other countries in world.
On the induction of light combat aircraft Tejas, he said it would be done in six squadrons, including the upgraded version.
He said the next version called Tejas ‘Mark-A’ would come with better radar, weapons, avionics, and its production will start in 2021.
Raha also said IAF would also be upgrading the Sukhoi 30 MKI fighter jets besides the Jaguar.
On the integration of BrahMos missiles with the Sukhoi 30 MKI, Raha said, “We hope to fire a live missile in three months.”
The IAF chief, who heads the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC), a body of the three service chiefs, said he hoped the government would resolve the issues of the 7th Pay Commission and that the forces have decided to implement it based on the government’s assurances.