Millennium Post
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Fate of IAF in limbo sans Rafale

The Indian Air Force (IAF) fears that its squadron strength will go down to a level lower than the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) by 2017. This would be the fate of the service unless Dassault’s 126 Rafale fighter aircraft contract is concluded soon. And, unless the light combat aircraft (LCA), Tejas also gets ready for induction by next year.

Factors contributing to this state of affairs, senior air force officers say, are the faulty decision-making processes in the ministries that are directly related to the acquisition part of the services. The delay in the contract negotiation process of the Rafale has given rise to this apprehension.

The Tejas LCA, of course, has been delayed in the process of development at the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) and at the level of productionisation by the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the officers claim.

Headquarters of the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) has begun the process of asking tough questions to the ministries of defence and finance as they tend to allocate funds, for example, in a manner that do not have any connection to the five year plans of the services, the sources say.

The IAF’s calculation of squadron strength ‘bottoming out’ by 2013-14 to a level of 30-odd and the rise taking place by 2015, with the induction of Rafale and Tejas, has now undergone a change. Air force sources say that the ‘bottoming out’ has been delayed a bit with the upgraded Mirages and Jaguars but by 2017, the squadron strength will reach a low of 29.

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