IAF chief justifies government decision to buy Rafale jets

New Delhi: Amidst the Rafale controversy, the Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa on Wednesday validated the purchase of the fighter jets by the BJP- led government.

He said that no country in the world is facing the kind of grave threat that India is confronted with and by providing the Rafale jets and S-400, the government is strengthening the Indian Air Force – which has witnessed depleting personnel in recent times.

Dhanoa also said that intentions of adversaries can change overnight and the Air Force needs to match their force level.

The air chief also said that India’s neighbours are not sitting idle and countries like China are modernising its air force significantly.

Speaking at a seminar on ‘IAF’s force structure, 2035’, the air chief said the government is procuring Rafale fighter jets and S-400 missile systems to enhance IAF’s capability. He also justified procurement of only two Rafale jet squadrons, saying there were example of similar purchases.

Deo had described Rafale as a ‘beautiful’ aircraft. The vice-chief had said those criticising the deal must understand the procurement norms.

Deo had said “all discussions on the deal” were taking place as people do not have adequate information about the procurement procedure. “We are waiting for the aircraft to come. It is a beautiful aircraft. It is a very capable aircraft. It is a capability that we need quickly,” he said on the sidelines of an event when asked about the controversy surrounding the Rafale deal.

Earlier, the vice-chief of the Indian Air Force Air Marshal SB Deo also approved of the Rafale deal, saying the fighter jets will give ‘unprecedented’ combat advantage to India.

IAF’s training on Rafale jets

  • In the midst of a political firestorm over the Rafale jet deal, the Indian Air Force is quietly making preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots, to welcome the fighter aircraft, official sources said to PTI.
  • They said the IAF is sending a batch of pilots by the end of this year to France for training on Rafale jets.
  • A number of IAF teams have already visited France to help Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale, incorporate India-specific enhancements on-board the fighter aircraft.

India had inked an inter-governmental agreement with France in September, 2016, for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore. The delivery of the jets — capable of carrying a range of potent weapons and missiles — is scheduled to begin in September next year. In July last year, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa, during his visit to France, flew a Rafale jet at the Saint-Dizier airbase to gain a first-hand experience of the aircraft.