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IAF will be down to just 29 squadrons by March, against sanctioned 42. The Rafale controversy is being blamed for slowing down acquisition process.

New Delhi: The Rafale controversy has apparently slowed down the Indian Air Force’s plan to procure 114 fighter jets, with the process of acquiring them yet to get the necessary ‘Acceptance of Necessity’ from the defence ministry.

The IAF has been waiting for new fighter jets since 2000 and its hopes were raised after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in April that India had rolled out the process to procure them, with a ‘Request for Information’ issued. He had promised to speed up the process and not “waste time like the UPA”.

However, eight months on, there has been little movement on the critical purchase as the raging political controversy over the Rafale fighter jets deal – with the opposition Congress accusing the Modi government of corruption in the acquisition from France – has thrown a spanner in the works, a top defence ministry source told ThePrint.

“The Rafale controversy has led to a fear factor which is delaying the whole process,” the source said. “The fact is that the IAF had been waiting for the fighters since 2000. The government, thankfully, went in for an emergency purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets, but this will not meet the urgent need of the IAF.”

The proposal for the 114 jets has been going around several desks in the government for months, the source added.

A second source, however, denied there was any delay and rejected the explanation that the Rafale controversy was responsible.

“You can say something is delayed only when there is a fixed time table. The RFI was issued in April this year and it is hoped that the AON will be issued soon,” this source said, referring to the Acceptance of Necessity.

The IAF, the second source claimed, will be able to raise a full squadron of the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas by March and this will ensure that the strength does not fall below 30 squadrons of fighter aircraft.

Dire state of affairs

The IAF has seen a steady decline in its fighter squadrons and at least two more squadrons are due to be phased out by March, bringing the strength down to just 29 as against the sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons. The original plan was to decommission three squadrons by March.

The last time IAF had 42 squadrons was back in 2002.

The IAF’s calculations say it will need at least 45 squadrons to fight a possible two-front war. But achieving that target in the near future appears extremely challenging as more squadrons retire as the aircraft complete their maximum flying cycle.

Also read: IAF’s potential is fast depleting, 36 Rafale jets offer only partial solution

The deal for 114 jets

Seven fighter aircraft are in contention for the mega deal, valued to be worth over $20 billion. While there is no fixed time table that needs to be adhered to, it was hoped that the process would be rushed through.

Following the signing of the deal for 36 Rafales, the government and the IAF were working on bringing out a tender for single-engine fighter aircraft, keeping the cost in mind.

The defence ministry, however, sprang a surprise by questioning the need for a single-engine foreign fighter when the indigenous LCA programme was on. This caused the IAF to retune itself and bring out an RFI in April, which did not limit it to single-engine fighters.

Industry experts wonder how this will play out, because one of the primary factors for the selection of aircraft will be cost, besides technical parameters.

“When it comes to cost, the single engine will always be cheaper than a twin engine,” an industry source said.

Former Air Chief Marshal Srinivasapuram Krishnaswamy said he hoped the process would be speeded up.

“There is no doubt that the IAF needs more fighters. The IAF has come out with numbers, projections, and even said so in Supreme Court. Hopefully, then, the process for the fighters will be faster,” he told ThePrint.

Asked if the high cost of the jets could be a factor causing the delay, Krishnaswamy said: “We live in a democracy and the government allocates priorities. The elections are coming and it would naturally be looking at other plans and projects which will also need money. It is a matter of where the hot potato is.”

Also read: In the defence scam brouhaha, efficacy of Rafale jets, Bofors guns, Agusta helicopters gets drowned

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29 Comments Share Your Views


  1. It is unfortunate that most comments are biased and not on any expertise. It might have been expedient to finalise the existing contract to get the planes quicker – at least one squadron would have come earlier than the new order. The deal according to Rafale’s MD finalised 95 %. This Govt could have tried to hasten the deliveries by a PM
    who is reported to be decisive . Instead he changed the offset manufacturer to a new Co with no prior experience in the field and
    with a rather poor record of existing Cos. The controversy may cause further delay

  2. Waiting for something bad to happen to buy fighter planes is like applying for health insurance after diagnosing with cancer. On the light side someone is really mixing up the Gandhis.

  3. Media needs to know that it takes 5 years for any one in this world to supply such aircraft after the initial monies are paid. Again the hyped gap between actual and rquired numbers has been existing for two decades . Procrastination has been our speciality. When you want to make this state sensational and now you are insulting yourselves . This is not news for guppa Maro. Nothing can happen by howling at each other. Head down engineering only can

  4. The people here behave like fools without any sign of learning from past. First you become mind less supporters of Gandhis (from Indira to Rahul) when you did’t accept their criticism and now you have become modi sycophants. You simply lack courage to question the wrongs of your leaders. So request to all of you don’t behave like partymen behave like citizens who have interest in building this country and not in building any party.

  5. Purchase of FIGHTER PLANE is like on counter purchase of onion potato for FENKU PM as per spokes persons of BHARATIYA JUMLA PARTY then why it is delayed or Ambani Adani are not ready for donation to JUMLA PARTY

  6. Like like ghete is absolutely no minimum criteria for writing about defence in The Print, provided you write against Modi.
    Of course the write , willfully or unwillingly, unaware of the practice that aise air marshal got recently in Paris on partially ready (the plane was ready in it self only the India specific this were not fully integrated) Rafale planes.
    And of course I don’t expect the writer to understand that “india specific integrations” are important.

  7. Scamgress wanted percentage in each deal and did not finalise any deal. Sonia was the biggest crook who had appointed a Yesman MMs as PM and looted country alongwith her son and son in law. Modi alone cannot conclude the deal as it takes time. Chor Rahul is screaming that Modi is chor and forgetting how his father mother he himself looted country. Disgraceful party and shameless leader. Throw them in dustbin or a commode in 2019

  8. There is a Tamil proverb,an elephant is worth a thousand pounds dead and after death.Cong has managed to defeat IAF while ruling and after losing

  9. Tamil proverb says an elephant is worth a thousand coins alive and after its death.Cong ruling denied IAF and after its defeat continues to do so.nations security is not on its mindpp

  10. The editor and journalist here need to understand that aircrafts are not fast food. But alas! These people will never realise. So used to fast food they are – pour in aloo, get sona stuff.

  11. Typical of leftist Media. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t! Tired and sick of such bigotry!

    A piece of advice – shut down

  12. First of all, it may be time to reconsider this two front war bogey. It dates from a time when neither India nor Pakistan were nuclear powers, even China may have barely conducted its first test. Given how costs are spiralling, with each fighter costing close to $ 200 million, 42 or 45 squadrons may not be affordable. And as someone who has a very small heart when it comes to spending public funds, the irreverent question arises, If we have been safe as houses since 2000, perhaps the IAF should not mind waiting a little longer …

  13. Ha ha ha….Modi ji khangress ke paap dhone mein dam Nikal jayegi. Ye Conggress har National interest mein adanga Laga Rahi hai. Kabhi court mein to kabhi road mein.

  14. The print is not a neutral news media…its truely biased against a particular political entity. People r not so stupid nowadays….

  15. How is Modi responsible for this Sorry state of IAF, Blame lies entirely at doorstep of Congress I, which failed to procure anything for 10 years.

  16. The print tell me one thing
    Modi complete his promise when he finalised Rafael deal but congress upa led by papu and his mother did not finalised anything in 10 year where r u then oh u take money thats why shut ur dirty mouth what is the deal done by congress upa 1 & 2 vvip chopper for what reason national security or personal security and gain .U actually proved paid media or dog exit in india

  17. In Ten years congress could not even conclude whether to buy or not. It takes lot of time to manufacture a fighter Aircraft then writing a pig shit like above. You already have degraded yourself with other bull shit articles and are further downgrading with these dog shit articles

  18. First tge cronies like go and try to stop tge nrw fighter being brought when didnot succeed then you go and write why is taking so long as if fighers are cadbury tiffes to just brought you own sonia gvt took ten years and did buy any thing for airforce. And you want nodi to do it less than half that time how fancyfull. And you still clame to a journalist

  19. There is time required for manufacture. France is doing the flights ready. There is no need for u wanted comments. Did u know the deal?? And the time limit. What happened to Bofers loot. Why no comment on that.??

  20. Promises or Jhumla and Monkey Bath? Modi’s “Governance” since 2014 prove that he is a man of sound and fury signifying nothing. Modi’s BJP is just Khangress-UPA in Saffron clothing.


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