Hyderabad: IAF Chief R K S Bhadauria on Saturday said the induction of 36 Rafale aircraft into the Indian Air Force would take place by 2022. The IAF is absolutely on target with respect to the Rafale induction plan, he said, while responding to a reporters' query on the timeline for receiving all the 36 fighter jets from France.
"The target is 2022. It is absolutely on target. I mentioned earlier. Except for one or two aircraft, minor delays because of COVID related issues, but, in fact, some deliveries have been ahead of time. So, broadly, we are absolutely on target on the Rafale induction plan. On the operationalisation plan, you are aware, we are fully operational.. So, in terms of time, we will be absolutely on time," he told reporters after reviewing the Combined Graduation Parade (CGP) at the Air Force Academy in Dundigal here.
In 2016, India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36-Rafale jets at a cost Rs 59,000 crore.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had in February said the country would have the entire fleet of the fighter aircraft by April 2022. Asked for his assessment on the situation in eastern Ladakh on the Indo-China border, the IAF Chief said talks are on between the two sides and the first attempt is to continue with the parleys and carry out the disengagement at the "balance friction points."
According to the IAF chief, so far 11 rounds of talks have been held between the Indian and Chinese commanders and the grounds are being prepared for another one.
"The first attempt is to continue with the talks and do the disengagement at the balance friction points. And, of course, follow it up with de-escalation," he said. "However, in parallel, the ground realities are being monitored closely.
Whatever is the reality across, in terms of current leftover locations, deployments, any changes, that is being monitored closely and whatever actions are required on our part, we are taking, Bhadauria said. On Phasing out MIG 21s from the fleet, Bhadauria said the current squadron of the aging aircraft will take place in the next two to three years depending on their life and they will be replaced by Light Combat Aircraft.
"As far as the phase out plan is concerned for this current squadron of MIG 21, there is a plan... In another 2 to 3 years they are being phased out depending on them as soon as they get to their life. There is already an induction plan.. You are aware four Squadrons of LCA have been ordered. They will start inducting in the three and half years from now.
So that is the plan in terms of these squadrons phasing out and LCA is replacing them," he said. According to him, these aircraft were upgraded in 2005 to 2010 and a lot of effort was put in to keep the flights fly-worthy.
Earlier, addressing the Combined Graduation Parade, he said the IAF is undergoing a monumental transformation with infusion of niche technologies and combat power in every facet due to rapidly evolving security challenges, coupled with rising geopolitical uncertainty in the neighbourhood and beyond.
Noting that the last few decades have clearly established the critical role of air power in achieving victory in any conflict, he said it is in this backdrop that IAF's ongoing capability enhancement assumes tremendous significance.