IAF Chief Bhadauria does not rule out procurement of more Rafale fighter jets

IAF Chief Bhadauria
Image Source : PTI

IAF Chief Bhadauria does not rule out procurement of more Rafale fighter jets

Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria on Monday did not rule out procurement of more Rafale jets, and mentioned the induction of the French-made multi-role plane has given the Indian Air Force an operational edge to strike “deep and hard”.

The Chief of Air Staff additionally mentioned the federal government is concentrating on procurement of 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas (Mark 1A), 114 multi-role fighter plane (MRFA) and having upgraded variations of the LCA moreover specializing in indigenous improvement of the formidable superior medium fight plane.

Asked whether or not the IAF was eager on having not less than two more squadrons of Rafale jets, Bhadauria mentioned it’s a complicated topic and that “various options” are being deliberated upon based mostly on the longer term requirement of the pressure.

“The entire subject is under discussion and debate,” the Chief of Air Staff mentioned at a press convention.

On induction of the primary fleet of Rafale, he mentioned,”the integration of Rafales brings in a platform armed with weapons, sensors and technologies that is way ahead and gives us an operational and technological edge in this area.

“Combined with upgraded op capabilities of our present fighter fleet, it provides us the flexibility to shoot first and strike deep and arduous, even in contested airspace.”

The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29, nearly four years after India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36 of the aircraft at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore.

There has been a view among some officials in the military establishment that the IAF should at least have four squadrons of Rafale jets considering its operational aspects. There are 18 aircraft in a squadron.

They think it will be the “most cost-effective possibility” as the cost of research and development for all India-specific enhancements have already been covered in the previous deal.

The Chief of Air Staff also cited budget constraints as one of the factors in taking any decision (regarding procurement), In April last year, the IAF issued an RFI (request for information) or initial tender to acquire 114 jets at a cost of around USD 18 billion, which is billed as one of the world’s biggest military procurements in recent years.

The top contenders for the deal include Lockheed’s F-21, Boeing’s F/A-18, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Russian aircraft MiG 35 and Saab’s Gripen.

“Whether we go in for more Rafale or MRFA, it will likely be an open competitors…The present standing is that now we have obtained all of the RFIs (for the MRFA programme). All these points are on the desk now in phrases of taking a closing name….There are varied points that should be thought-about,” he said.

It is learnt that a preliminary discussion on a possible procurement of another batch of 36 Rafale jets by India from France figured during the talks between the two sides in the past one year, as the French officials are making efforts to push for a government-to-government deal.

Ten Rafale jets were delivered to India so far and five of them stayed back in France for imparting training to IAF pilots. The second batch of four to five Rafale jets are likely to arrive in India by November.

According to officials, Rafale jet would also take part in the Air Force Day parade on 8 October.

Bhadauria said the IAF would get 3-4 Rafales after every 2-3 months till supply of the entire fleet of 36 is completed.

The Rafale jets, known for air-superiority and precision strikes, are India’s first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 year after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia.

Known for air-superiority and precision strikes, the Rafale jets are India’s first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 year after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia.

The newly inducted fleet has been carrying out sorties in eastern Ladakh where Indian and Chinese troops are engaged in a bitter border row for the last five months.

“We have operationalised the lately acquired Rafale, Chinook, and Apache plane and built-in them into our present idea of operations in file time,” the IAF Chief said.

“In the subsequent three years we’ll see the Rafale and LCA MK1 squadrons working with full energy, together with further Su-30 and Mig 29 plane, which can be being ordered along with the present fleets,” he said.

Bhadauria said the mid-life operational upgrade of Mirage-2000, MiG-29 and Jaguar fleet would add to the IAF’s capability in this period, thereby further enhancing not only their operational capability but overall potential.

“We have a focussed modernisation programme of our current fleets to combine and focus on newest weapons, techniques, sensors, and applied sciences,” he mentioned.

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