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Sukhoi cannot replace Rafale: IAF chief

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SU-30MKI. A Sukhoi photo.

BENGALURU (PTI): Indian Air Force chief Arup Raha has ruled out buying of more Russian SU-30s in place of French Rafale jets saying the two aircraft complement each other but do not replace the other.

Amid doubts creeping in that talks with Rafale would breakdown, Raha said that his force has no Plan B and was working on only Plan A.

Highlighting that his force has a number of legacy aircraft and their replacements are necessary, Raha said the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal, for which Rafale has been shortlisted, needs to be inked in the "quickest possible time because drawdown is true".

Defence sources had said that India could buy more Sukhoi 40s in case the Rafale deal does not happen.

However, Raha said, "MMRCA and Sukhoi-30, the requirements are slightly different. And they have their own capabilities. They complement each other but do not replace each other."

He said that everyone is aware of the drawdown of the combat squadrons of the IAF and stressed?that every air force faces obsolescence in its cycle of operations.

"It is not new or specific to Indian Air Force," Raha said on Thursday addressing journalists here at the Aero India.

He said legacy aircraft of the force like MiG-21 and MiG-27 need to be replaced so that the force can have the required 42 squadrons of combat planes.

Asked about the Rafale fighter jet, he said he would prefer to call it MMRCA.

"Rafale has been selected as L1 (lowest bidder). It is a replacement. It is important that we have the MMRCA and we need to have it in the quickest possible time because drawdown is true," Raha said.

He said MMRCA could fill up the gap in the Air Force, adding that if the deal is inked today, the first squadron will only come in three years and subsequent ones in 5-6 years.

He said the Contract Negotiating Committee is working out the issues in the deal and hoped it would be inked.

Asked if the force has a Plan B in case the deal does not happen, Raha said, "No, we don't have a Plan B as of now. We are only working on Plan A".

Rafale was shortlisted in 2012 by the Ministry of Defence but a final contract is yet to be signed.

As per the RFP (request for proposal) issued in 2007, the first 18 jets are to be imported and the rest 108 manufactured under licence by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

Tags:

Aero India  Sukhoi  Rafale  IAF  Military  
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