NEW DELHI: Indian Air Force (IAF) Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa on Wednesday justified the procurement of the French Dassault Rafale fighter jets and the Russian S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missiles pointing out that the IAF needs to strengthen its fleet to match the neighbours who have been modernising their military at a rapid pace.
ACM Dhanoa made the comments at a seminar on 'IAF's force structure, 2035', while adding that India faces a grave threat to its security which no other country in the world has to deal with. He said the government is buying Rafale fighter jets and S-400 missile systems to enhance IAF's capability.
His statements come in the midst of an ongoing political slugfest between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government and the Congress, with the later accusing the Centre of compromising Indian national security to benefit a handful industrialists.
“Our neighbours are not sitting idle. China is modernising its air force significantly,” said Dhanoa. He added that India's adversaries can change their intentions overnight and the defence forces "need to match force level of our adversaries".
“By providing the Rafale and S-400, the government is strengthening the Indian Air Force to counter the shortfalls of our depleting numbers," said the IAF chief. . He also justified the procurement of two Rafale squadrons, adding that there are examples of similar purchases.
“What we do not have are 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,” said Dhanoa.
The IAF needs at least 42 squadrons to effectively deal with a two-front war scenario. There are 11 squadrons of the frontline Sukhoi Su-30MKI, three each of the MiG-29 and Mirage 2000, six Jaguar and six MiG-21Bison squadrons apart from two upgraded MiG-27 squadrons. The force has already ordered three more Su-30MKI and two Dassault Rafale squadrons along with two squadrons of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Teja