In his farewell press conference Air Chief Marshall (ACM) Arup Raha said that the IAF will need 200 more aircrafts in the medium category, besides the 36 Rafales the country is procuring from the French. He also said that the Su-30 MKIs will continue to constitute the heavy category, while in the .light category 120 Tejas Mark IIs will be inducted.
He also reflected on his biggest regret as the CAS and the 29-month long chairmanship of the chiefs of staff committee is the case of the missing AN-32 that went down near the Andaman Sea. “The depth in the target area is deep and we even used remotely controlled underwater vessel to scan the area sea-bed. It found about 30 objects but none of them belonged to the AN-32.” So the 29 airmen who went down with the aircraft remain “missing.”
He said that the IAF has emerged as a full spectrum, strategic air force. That meant that “We have grown the capability to fight from the sub-conventional (terrorism and insurgency), to conventional and non-conventional (nuclear) categories of war,” ACM Raha said.
He remembered the contribution of the previous IAF leaders beginning with veterans Subrata Mukherjee, PC Lal and the Marshal of the service, Arjan Singh. Raha recalled that “They laid down the foundation of what we are today.”
A much relaxed ACM Raha also talked about the procurement of the Airbus C-295 short haul transport aircraft that is under negotiation. He said that the contract negotiation committee is deciding on the right price of the aircraft, its transfer of technology (ToT) and manufacture in India.
He referred to the advanced landing grounds that are being constantly built in the north-eastern region of the country, recalling how a large but agile aircraft like the C-17 heavy transport aircraft landed at Mechuka.
Overall, he appeared satisfied with the progress the IAF during his tenure of three years.
In the backdrop of corruption allegations against former IAF chief S P Tyagi in the VVIP chopper scam, Raha said multiple agencies are involved in the procurement process and no one can pin the blame on one particular organisation or service.
Tyagi, who was given bail recently, has always maintained that all decisions were taken collectively and it is wrong to solely blame him.
IAF Chief Raha, who was asked about corruption charges plaguing defence deals, also lamented that despite probes into the alleged scams over the decades, not much could be achieved by the investigating agencies to bring to justice people involved in corrupt practices.