Concerned by Pakistan's plans to induct more F-16 jets and the rapid depletion of the country's fighter fleet, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi has written to the government asking for more multi-role aircraft so that his force can maintain its superiority.
Tyagi, according to highly placed sources, has written a letter to Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, drawing attention to the fact that the number of IAF fighting squadrons is set to hit an all-time low.
More jets are needed for at least 36 squadrons to maintain the IAF's battle preparedness, sources said.
Tyagi, according to sources, recommended to the government the immediate purchase of at least 40 multi-role fighters. He also called for a speedy decision on the proposal to buy 126 combat jets.
Five aircraft, including the F-16 and F-18 of the US and Russia's MiG-29, are in the race for the 126-jet deal.
However, sources said the government has shot down most of Tyagi's proposals and indicated that the Defence Ministry wants to work on the early induction of the 126 fighters.
According to IAF sources, the number of combat squadrons has fallen to an all-time low due to crashes and phasing out of ageing aircraft like certain variants of the MiG-21.
IAF top brass is also concerned at Pakistan's plans to buy up to 44 F-16s from the US.
The IAF had earlier suggested a certain number of Mirage-2000-5 jets should be purchased as an interim measure to keep the force's strength at an optimum level.
However, Dassult, which makes the Mirage, has closed its assembly lines for the jet.