Indian Air Force (IAF) officers on Wednesday emphasised in the Supreme Court the need for induction of ‘four plus or fifth’ generation fighter aircraft like Rafale, which have niche stealth technology and enhanced electronic warfare capabilities.
Top IAF officers — Air Vice Marshall J Chalapati, Air Marshal Anil Khosla and Deputy Chief of Air staff, Air Marshal V R Chaudhari — had to rush to the apex court at short notice after a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it wished to interact with IAF officers as the controversy over the Rafale deal concerns them.
They told the bench that Sukhoi 30s is the latest to be inducted which is a 3.5 generation aircraft and said the IAF does not have fourth or fifth generation aircraft.
The bench expressed its wish to interact with the officers when Attorney General K K Venugopal commenced his arguments on behalf of the Centre.
He was opposing the pleas for a CBI probe into the 36 Rafale fighter jet deal with France.
“We are dealing with the requirements of the Air Force and would like to ask an Air Force officer. We want to hear from an Air force officer and not the official of the Defence Ministry on the issue,” the bench said in the pre-lunch session.
Chalapati, who appeared before the bench also comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K M Joseph, answered all the questions asked by the CJI about the induction of fighter jets by India.
He said the country needs the fifth generation aircraft, which have niche stealth technology and enhanced electronic warfare capabilities.
The CJI asked Chalapati the first question, “What is the latest induction to IAF?”
Chalapati replied that it is Sukhoi Su-30MKI, manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited at Nashik in Maharashtra and Bangalore in Karnataka.
He said that IAF is getting new Su-30MKI aircraft each year.
The CJI then asked Chalapati that besides Su-30MKI, which aircraft are being manufactured in India.
The officer said that he himself is a pilot and has a special liking for Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) being built in Bangalore but is yet to be inducted into IAF.
The CJI also asked the officer which generation aircraft are the LCA and Su-30MKI.
Chalapati said there is no clear definition of generation and as he has flied the LCA which according to him is three and half generation aircraft.
He said both LCA and Su-30MKI are three and half and fourth generation aircrafts respectively but the requirement of IAF at present is of four plus or fifth generations aircrafts.
The CJI asked does it mean that IAF currently requires few squadrons of fourth and fifth generation aircrafts.
Chalapati replied in affirmative and said, “the fifth generation aircraft have niche stealth technology and the electronic warfare capabilities are very very enhanced”.
The CJI Gogoi then asked Chalapati was there any induction made in IAF after Mirage in 1985.
The officer replied in negative which led CJI to observe: “It means since 1985 to 2018 there is zero induction”.
However, when the observation of zero induction was made, none of the advocates pointed out that Sukhoi fighter jets were inducted after Mirage.
The CJI said it is all that they wanted to know from the officials and later asked them to go back to their offices after nearly half an hour saying, “Air Marshalls can now leave. This is a different kind of war room and you all can go to your war rooms. Thank You”.
The bench then continued with the arguments on the validity of Rafale jets deal.