Indian Air Force Chief B S Dhanoa Wednesday said the government’s order of two Rafale squadrons was in line with similar purchases made earlier. The Air Chief Marshal added that the jets, along with India’s purchase of S-400 missile systems from Russia, will enhance the IAF’s capability. The IAF currently has 31 fighter squadrons against the authorised strength of 42—each squadron comprises 16 to 18 aircraft.
“Whenever the government felt the air power 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 is quoted as saying by PTI. “The history is that the government had undertaken emergency purchase of fighter aircraft on several occasions in the past.”
Speaking at a seminar on ‘IAF’s force structure, 2035’ in New Delhi, the IAF Chief said India was confronted with a grave threat as its neighbours are not sitting idle, reported news agency PTI. He added that China is “significantly” modernising its air force. “Intentions of our adversaries can change overnight. We need to match force level of our adversaries,” Dhanoa said.
“Even when we do have 42 squadrons, we will be below the combined numbers of two of our regional adversaries,” he added, in reference to China and Pakistan.
India’s Rafale deal with France has been in the eye of controversy, with the Opposition accusing the Modi government of massive irregularities in the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets worth Rs 58,000 crore. The Indian Express earlier reported that only one of the 36 aircraft will be delivered by the end of the contract period in April 2022 with India-Specific Enhancements. India will receive the balance 35 by September 2019.
“By the time the first Rafale is certified with India-Specific Enhancements, 35 Rafale aircraft would have already been delivered to India. The 35 aircraft would be modified in India in the next five months. This is a simple plug-and-play process,” sources told The Indian Express. There are 13 India-Specific Enhancements demanded by India.
An IAF team of four officers has been in France since August 2017 to test the aircraft, along with French pilots and monitor its production. Further, the IAF is sending pilots to France this year for training, reported PTI.