The newly appointed Chief of Indian Air Force Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria said acquisition of Rafale jets and S-400 air defence systems will greatly enhance Indian Air Force’s operational capabilities. “Rafale and S-400 air defence missile systems will further bolster the capability of the Indian Air Force,” Bhadauria said at the annual press conference held in the capital on Friday ahead of the Air Force Day that will be observed on 8 October.
The Air Chief informed media that the first Rafale fighter jets will be seen in Indian skies only by the end of May 2020. He added that Indian Air Force will receive the first four of the total 36 jets by May 2020. “The advantage of getting the Rafale in May next year will be that our pilots will be fully trained by then,” observed the Air Chief Marshal.
“A pre-delivery inspection team was in France last month to complete the handing over formalities. That was when the documentation took place and the aircraft was ‘technically accepted’ by the IAF. They will be formally handed over to the Defence Minister next week,” added Bhadauria.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will be receiving the first Rafale fighter jet in France on 8 October. After receiving the aircraft, the Defence Minister will take a sortie on a two-seater Indian Rafale days after taking to the sky in an indigenous Tejas aircraft last month.
He also stated that there was no separate plan to acquire another 36 Rafale jets in a separate bid. India is planning to acquire 114 fighter jets to make up for its depleting strength of fighter aircraft.
“There are no plans to acquire 36 more Rafale jets separately. The RFI for 114 aircraft has already been received. We have started the process for AON (Acceptance of Necessity),” he informed.
The Air Chief said that the Indian Air Force has achieved many important milestones last year including successfully targeting terror camps in Balakote, Pakistan on 26 February. “On February 27, in the aerial battle after attack by Pakistan, Indian Air Force lost one MiG-21 and Pakistan lost one F-16,” Bhadauria said adding that “It was a big mistake on our part to shoot down our own helicopter on 27 February. Court of Inquiry has submitted its report on shooting down of chopper, and disciplinary action is being taken against two officers.”
The Air Chief reiterated that Indian Air Force is prepared to meet any contingency and does not rest on past laurels. “Indigenisation remains our priority,” the Air Chief said that inducting indigenous inventory into IFA will be a priority as a key and serve as a pillar of success. “Notwithstanding the pace of acquisitions, modernisation and the indigenisation efforts which are ongoing processes, the IAF is prepared to fight at short notice in full synergy with the other two sister services. IAF as a service has evolved considerably over the years with the capability of sustaining operational readiness for a prolonged period,” Bhadauria elaborated.
By Ravi Shankar