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Over 200 more fighter jets needed in next 10 years: IAF chief

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New Delhi, 28 Dec 2016 : The Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, on Wednesday said 200 to 250 more fighter aircraft were required to be inducted in the next 10 years to meet the air force’s operational requirement.

India has sufficient number of aircraft in the heavy category in Sukhoi-30s, whereas gaps in the medium and lightweight categories needed to be filled, he told the media here.

The IAF chief said that 36 Rafale jets being bought by India from France were not enough.

“We are still inducting Sukhoi-30s; it will last us for another 40 years. The Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas) will fill some void in the lightweight category… Rafale is an excellent aircraft. But we have just 36 aircraft; we require more aircraft in the medium-weight category,” Raha said.

“To fill the gap, one more line of production is needed in India,” he said, adding that a decision on the matter is likely soon, and the file is at present lying with the Defence Ministry.

On September 23, India signed a 7.87 billion ruro (about Rs 59,000 crore) deal with France to buy the 36 Rafale fighter jets to meet IAF’s critical operational requirement for a multi-role combat aircraft and enhance its strategic reach, especially in the context of arch rival Pakistan.

The IAF chief, set to retire on December 31, pointed out that the IAF’s sanctioned sqadron strength is 42, and said: “This is just a numeral; there has to be a capability mix of heavy, medium and light aircraft.”

Raha also emphasised the need for inducting more midair refuelers since its present fleet of Ilyushin IL-78 tanker fleet faced maintenance problems.

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