Chief of the Air Staff BS Dhanoa backed the purchase of Rafale aircraft today, saying the French jets would help the Indian Air Force (IAF) bolster its “depleting” aircraft numbers.
“By providing the Rafale and S-400 aircraft, the government is strengthening the Indian Air Force to counter the shortfall of our depleting numbers [of aircraft],” Dhanoa said.
The air chief said India faced a shortage of fighter aircraft despite the threat of a two-front war with Pakistan and China. “Very few countries are facing challenges like us. We have two nuclear-armed neighbors,” he said.
Over the past decade, China has significantly enhanced its deployment in Tibet, and has the capability to mobilise its strength along the border at short notice, he said.
“Against the sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons, we are down to 31,” Dhanoa said. Even if the Air Force gets the sanctioned 42 squadrons, he said, India’s strength would be “less than the combined strength of our two adversaries — China and Pakistan”.
The IAF chief’s comments come in the wake of the controversy surrounding the Rafale deal. The Congress has been attacking the Modi government by alleging irregularities in the deal, a charge denied by the government.