Su-30 can't replace Rafale: Air Force chief

Aero India: Raha says French aircraft more suited to IAF needs

Su-30 can't replace Rafale: Air Force chief

Air Force Chief Arup Raha on Thursday said the service does not have a Plan B on the procurement of 126 fighter jets, ruling out speculation on increasing the intake of Russian Su-30 MKI to replace French-made Rafale.

The Air Force chief said Su-30 MKI cannot replace Rafale as medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) because the two jets belong to different classes.

“There is no Plan B as of now. We are working only on Plan A. It is important to have MMRCA and Rafale is the L1 candidate,” Air Chief Marshal Raha said at Aero-India.
The IAF chief asserted that Su-30 MKI aircraft cannot be considered as MMRCA replacements – a speculation triggered by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
“There are MMRCA and there is Sukhoi-30. The requirements are slightly different. They have their own capabilities. They compliment each other but do not replace each other,” Raha said.

Underlining the obsolescence factor in the Air Force, Raha said, “Everyone is aware of the draw-down combat squadrons in the IAF. Every air force faces this in its cycle of operations. It is not new or specific to IAF.” In December, a Parliamentary Standing Committee report pointed out that the IAF squadron strength was not up to the mark. “The IAF requires at least 45 fighter squadrons to counter a two front collusive threat. The IAF today has 25 active fighter squadrons,” the report had said.

Out of the 25 active squadrons, as many as 14 are equipped with MiG-21 and MiG-27 aircraft, which will retire between 2015 and 2024 and if there is no replacement, the strength will be reduced to just 11 squadrons by 2024, it had added.

Meanwhile, the MiG-21 and MiG-27 fleet are in the process of being phased out. The first batch four MiG-21 FL (Type-77) retired from the service in December 2013.
Two other MiG-21 variants—Type-96, Type-75 and MiG-27—are set to be phased out while the upgraded MiG-21 BISONs will fly till 2025.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Wednesday said he asked the contract negotiation committee to submit its report by the end of February or early March for a quick decision.
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to visit Paris, there are expectations from both sides that a positive announcement might be expected during the bilateral trip.

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