Defence minister pulls up IAF top brass over declining squadron strength

Defence minister pulls up IAF top brass over declining squadron strength

The top brass of the Indian Air Force has reportedly been pulled up by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for inappropriate responses on its depleting squadron strength before a parliamentary panel.

At a meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Defence on October 27, IAF officials, including Vice Chief Air Marshal S B Deo, were reportedly criticised by the minister, as they only talked about the problems related to depleting squadron strength, but did not offer any solution.

As the meeting discussed the IAF's depleting strength, Deo explained the problems to the lawmakers but stopped short of suggesting a solution to the crisis. This angered the minister, who wanted IAF and defence ministry officials to also tell the MPs about the possible solution.

The officials later told the minister that in the next meeting of the panel, they would come prepared with possible solutions on the vexed issue.

The IAF's squadron strength has come down to 33 in comparison to the sanctioned strength of 42. Of the 33 squadrons, nearly 10 squadrons are made up of old MiG-21 and MiG-27 aircraft that are being phased out.

The only new induction is 36 French origin Rafale aircraft. The first one is expected to be inducted by 2019. The IAF would also get another 36 Su-30 MKI aircraft and plans to induct more than 120 indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft.

To make up for the MiG multi-role combat jets on the verge of retirement, the IAF is looking at purchasing more single-engine fighter aircraft of the same class. The government, however, is yet to take a final decision on the proposal.

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