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Rafale and S-400 booster dose —Air Chief

CAS further added that the 83 Mk-1A Tejas and 36 Rafale besides Sukhoi-30 MKI and the up gradation of the existing aircrafts will arrest the drop down from the existing 31 squadrons.

October 3, 2018 Photo(s): By Rohit Srivastava

While answering a salvo of queries on the controversial Rafale aircraft deals, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, in defence of the deal, said that Rafale, when inducted, will be a game changer in the sub-continent. He was addressing the annual press conference ahead of the October 8 Air Force Day.

Speaking on the over $5 billion Russian Long-range-surface-to-air S-400 missile deal, Air Chief said that along with Rafale, S-400 will be the booster dose for the IAF which is facing severe erosion in its fighter strength. According to him the first S-400 is expected to arrive in two years from signing of the deal.

CAS further added that the 83 Mk-1A Tejas and 36 Rafale besides Sukhoi-30 MKI and the up gradation of the existing aircrafts will arrest the drop down from the existing 31 squadrons.

India is currently upgrading its French Mirage-2000 and British-French Jaguar aircraft. IAF has a mandate for 42 squadrons.

“IAF should sign the contract for Avro replacement by the end of this financial year.” —Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa

While discussing the operational impact of the depleting fighter squadron, he said that the ‘Gaganshakti exercise’ aptly showed the operational capability of the IAF.

Speaking on the MMRCA 2.0 or the 114 fighter aircraft deal, Dhanoa said that IAF is waiting for Acceptance of Necessity and following that a Request for Proposal (RFP) will be issued. Speaking further he said that the current tender will not take as much time as the previous MMRCA. IAF plans to test only those systems which were not part of the aircraft that were put to trials.

On the offset partnership of the Rafale, CAS denied any IAF role and said that it was Dassault (manufacturer of Rafale aircraft) which selected its offset partner.

Speaking on the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, Dhanoa informed that IAF has a plan for induction of 231 LCA which will includes four squadron (83) LCA Mk-1A and six squadron (108) of Mk-II. LCA are being manufactured by HAL. IAF is expecting delivery of the Mk-1A to begin around 2021/22. The development of the LCA Mk-II is under progress.

On the delays in delivery by HAL, he said, "There has been a delay in the delivery schedule in contracts already executed to HAL. There is a three years delay in delivery of Sukhoi-30, 6 years delay in Jaguar, 5-year delay in LCA, and 2-year delay in delivery of Mirage 2000 upgrade.”

Refuting all allegation of over payment for the Rafale, he said, "It's not simply possible that the new cost would be higher than the cost finalised earlier."

On the expansion of the aviation infrastructure in Tibet, he said, “We're watching infrastructure developments. They (China) have been saying that airports are coming up for regional connectivity. We have a plan to counter that.. 50 aircraft in Tibet is no threat.”

Chief also announced ‘Baba Mehar Singh Swarm Drone Competition’ for autonomous UAV swarms. The winner of the competition will get INR 10 Lakh. IAF has pledged INR 10 crore for development and additional funds for co-production.

Quick Questions

During the Press briefing, ahead of the 86th Air Force Day, CAS Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, specifically answered two questions put to him by Jayant Baranwal, Editor-in-Chief, SP’s Aviation

Jayant Baranwal: What will be the number of squadrons in 2022 when delivery of 36 Rafale is completed?

Chief of the Air Staff: It will remain the same number of squadrons i.e. 31 - similar to what it is today, with some LCA Mark 1A coming in.

Jayant Baranwal: When will finally the Avro Replacement be signed?

Chief of the Air Staff: Should be by the end of this financial year.