Air force chief backs govt on Rafale row

NEW DELHI: Air Chief BS Dhanoa on Wednesday said that government’s decision to procure French Rafale fighter jets and Russian S-400 air defence missile system will help to fill the gap in IAF's combat capabilities.

"We do not have the numbers, against a sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons, we are down to 31. Even when we do have 42 squadrons, we will be below the combined numbers of two of our regional adversaries," he said at a seminar on Air Force structure in Delhi.

"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 first 123 Mark-1A jets," Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said.

“No country is facing the kind of grave threat that India is confronted with. Intentions of our adversaries can change overnight. We need to match force level of our adversaries,” he admitted.

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

He also justified procurement of only two Rafale jet squadrons, saying there were example of similar purchases.

Deputy Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Raghunath Nambiar said that the Rafale jets will form the cornerstone of our high end fighter capability which will be inducted from next year.

"Based on threats from Pakistan and China, we identified the capability gaps. Our main demands are to undertake full spectrum, all weather ops, and standoff precision strikes."