Indian Air Force Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa on Wednesday once again defended the government's decision to procure Rafale fighter jets from France, saying the IAF, which is reeling under a severe shortage of jets, needs the aircraft as it could be a "game changer". "Who says we don't need Rafale? The government says we need Rafale, we are saying we need Rafale. The Supreme Court has given a fine judgment…it took us so long (to procure) that our adversaries have already upgraded their system. The Rafale is a game changer," ANI quoted Dhanoa as saying.
The Congress has been alleging massive irregularities in the deal and attacking the government for procuring just 36 jets when IAF required 126 jets. On December 14, the Supreme Court said it had found nothing wrong with a deal the Narendra Modi government signed with France to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said it had studied the matter "extensively" and that it was "satisfied that there is no occasion to doubt the process [of signing the Rafale deal]." The ruling came on four petitions that had asked the Supreme Court to set up a court-monitored probe into the signing of the Rafale deal. The petitions had alleged that the Modi government not only overpaid for the Rafale jets but also promoted crony capitalism.
In his address, the IAF Chief said the 36 Rafale will add teeth to India's firepower, suggesting that the political slugfest surrounding the Rafale deal was unfortunate.
Justifying the government's decision to go for only two Rafale squadrons, Dhanoa had earlier said India procured two squadrons of MiG 23 MF jets after Pakistan received the first lot of F-16 aircraft in 1983.
The IAF chief said, "By providing the Rafale and S-400, the government is strengthening the IAF to counter the shortfalls of our depleting numbers."
(With PTI inputs)