Rafale deal: IAF chief backs government, says India facing threat
On Wednesday, Indian Air Force (IAF) chief BS Dhanoa backed the government on the controversial Rafale deal, saying that the procurement of Rafale fighter jets was crucial for strengthening India's weakening air force strength. Speaking at the 'IAF's force structure, 2035' seminar in New Delhi, Dhanoa added that India was confronted with a grave threat from its neighbors. Here are the details.
Stressing on the importance of acquiring high-tech fighters like Rafale, the IAF chief defended the procurement of just two squadrons of Rafale jets, saying that similar purchases had been made before. Dhanoa also added that India's Rs. 40,000cr purchase of five regiments of the S-400 air defense systems from Russia would also bolster the IAF's combat and defense capabilities.
"The high-tech fighters like Rafale are needed because medium-tech fighters like Tejas alone cannot do. IAF is investing heavily in Tejas, looking at 12 squadrons of Tejas Mark-2 after the first 123 Mark-1A jets," explained Dhanoa.
Emphasizing India's need to match the capabilities of its neighbors, Dhanoa added that the IAF was 11 squadrons short of the requisite 42 squadrons needed to match its adversaries. With the progressive retirement of 10 old MiG squadrons, the number is set to decrease further. Dhanoa added that given Pakistan and China's air warfare capabilities, the IAF needed to pick its game up.
"Pakistan has over 20 fighter squadrons, with upgraded F-16s, and is inducting J-17s from China in large numbers. China has 1,700 fighters, including 800 4-Gen fighters. But we do not have the numbers, with fighter squadrons down to 31 from the sanctioned 42," explained Dhanoa.
The IAF chief's comments come a day after former Union ministers Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha, and lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan held a press conference saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was personally culpable for "the largest defence scam the country has seen." The trio accused Modi of illegally bypassing all procedures governing defense equipment procurement, and proceeding unilaterally with the deal.
"The entire deal has been struck by one man, the PM. And the entire web of lies has been spun to protect that one man," former minister Arun Shourie told the press.