IAF Chief justifies Govt decision to procure 36 Rafale jets

NEW DELHI, INDIA - MARCH 10: Air Marshal BS Dhanoa, Vice Chief of Air Staff, briefs media about the Iron Fist-2016 - a Fire Power Demonstration (FPD) by the Indian Air Force scheduled to be held at Pokhran Jisalmer on March 18, 2016 at Air Force Auditorium Subroto Parkon, March 10, 2016 in New Delhi, India. Dhanoa said that the mammoth exercise in the Thar Desert would involve the participation of 181 aircraft from multiple bases across the country. (Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

NEW DELHI: Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa on 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.” (AGENCIES)