IAF Chief ACM Arup Raha addressing a press conference at Aero India 2015 on 19 FebruaryChief of Air Staff Arup Raha expressed the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) willingness to accept an alternative aircraft to French fighter aircraft Rafale if the deal “does not come through for any reason.”
Addressing a press conference at the Aero India 2015, on February 19, the Chief was repeatedly asked about the delay in finalising the agreement for the purchase of 126 Rafale fighter planes from France’s Dassault. Raha said, “Rafale has been selected as L-1 for MMRCA. The drawdown of our fleet of combat force has already begun and we need to have MMRCA at the quickest possible time – may not necessarily be the Rafale.”
The agreement with the French company signed in 2012 during the previous UPA government has been stalled due to a raging dispute between the two countries over the question of assembly and timely delivery of the aircraft in India.
Pressed for a categorical reply on whether there were any doubts about the acquisition of Rafale, Raha said, “We are quite happy with Rafale. But if it does not work out, we urgently need similar aircraft of that variety and capability.”
In reply to another question on how urgent was the request for Rafale, the Air Chief said, “The drawdown has started and obsolescence has hit us. If, for any reason, the contract (for Rafale) is not signed, we want another (fleet of aircraft) of the same class.”
Dismissing rumours of IAF not being happy with Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), the Air Chief Marshal said, “The SP-I of the aircraft has just been handed over to the RakshaMantri in January. The next one is almost ready. Once we have the SP-3, that’s when the design will be frozen.”
Raha also rejected a suggestion that there was ‘reluctance’ on behalf of IAF to accept the LCA. He said, “The design and development of a fighter aircraft takes a long time….If there are any shortfalls, ADA and HAL will clear those deficiencies and “we are not trying to put anybody down.”
Raha said the Air Force needs a minimum of four aircraft to operationalise the squadron, which was expected to be done by the year end. He said the IAF had placed orders with HAL for two squadrons of LCA and “once we have Mark II by 2017-18, we will order a full complement of 80 aircraft.”
Ramakrishna Upadhya

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