The number of combat jets required by the Air Force changes from time to time, said the Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, while answering queries after delivery of a lecture on India’s National Security and Importance of Rafale Deal.
Talking about the number of combat jets required by the Air Force, Sitharaman said, “When the decision of procurement of 126 fighter jets was arrived at in 2001, the requirement of the Air Force was higher. Now after 20 years the situation has changed.” “Now you have UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles or drones), so in a situation of war are we required to send a trained pilot in a fighter plane inside the enemy borders? So requirements change from time to time”. “In the UPA deal, they were just procuring 18 Rafale in fly-away condition, but we are procuring 36 in fly-away condition, delivery of which will start form September. For the rest that have to be manufactured we have issued a request for information (RFI),” she added.
“We have given the contract to HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd) for 83 light combat fighter aircraft. Sukhois are being manufactured in India,” she said. Asked if she had any doubts about the Rafale deal, Sitharaman said neither she nor her predecessors Arun Jaitley and Manohar Parrikar had any doubts about the PM’s decisions on Rafale or any other defence deal.