Indian Air Force chief Arup Raha on Thursday asserted that the IAF needed a medium multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA) to bolster its depleting fighter levels but not necessarily the Rafale aircraft made by Dassault.
Talking to the media at Aero India 2015, he said the requirement is for an MMRCA- type fighter. It has to replace the obsolescent aircraft of the IAF such as the MIG-21, MiG-27 and their upgraded versions to maintain operational viability. The MMRCA would fill a crucial gap in the IAF’s force level and maintain its squadron strength.
He said even after signing an agreement with a manufacturer of the MMRCA, it would need 3 years to bring in the first squadron of 18 aircraft and another 5-6 years for the rest of the allocated 108 aircraft.
Referring to the Dassault Rafale fighter, he said we are “quite happy” with the Rafale and that contract negotiations are still on. But if for any reason, it does not work out, we may have look for “other” aircraft.
However, he hoped that the deal with Dassault would be signed as it has been shortlisted as L1 or lowest bidder.
IAF currently operates only 25 fighter squadrons even as it has a need for 42, and the Centre had given a nod to raise 45 squadrons. “Under these circumstances, there is need for faster induction of new fighter aircraft,” he said.
The air chief said expansion would begin with the two squadrons of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), of initial operation clearance and the final operation clearance variants.