Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha on Saturday said a contract to buy 36 Rafale warplanes from France could be clinched by the year-end, but stressed the Air Force would require more such fighters to beef up its force levels.
Raha said the IAF would need at least six squadrons of Rafale or similar fighter planes as the Air Force was operating below its authorised strength. However, defence minister Manohar Parrikar had said in June that India would buy only 36 Rafales, ruling out the possibility of acquiring more fighters.
Asked if the four additional squadrons would consist of Rafales or India could turn to other players, Raha said, “I may wish to have Rafale but there are equally good aircrafts. So if the deal is good and the government decides, alternatives are there.” He was responding to questions at his customary press conference ahead of the IAF Day on October 8.
New Delhi had in April scrapped a deal to buy 126 Rafale fighters from French firm Dassault Aviation, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi opting to buy 36 of these planes directly through a government-to-government deal.
“I cannot say I only want Rafale. I want capability of Rafale-type aircraft. So the government will have a look at it and based on urgency and the type of contract signed with Dassault Aviation, further decisions may be taken by the government. I cannot predict,” Raha said.