The Indian Air Force is planning to induct at least 12 squadrons of Tejas Mark-II, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa said on Tuesday at a conference organised by the Centre for Air Power Studies, Livefist has reported.
As each fighter squadron of the IAF has 18 jets, the total number of Tejas Mark-II aircraft the air force may induct could be above 200.
Dhanoa, however, noted that the offer will come only if the performance of this version of Tejas meets IAF’s expectations.
The improved version of the Tejas is expected to make its first flight in the early part of the next decade. The Mark-II version of the fighter, reports have said, will feature a more powerful engine and radar, will have better avionics and electronic warfare equipment, and higher payload capacity.
The Air Chief has revealed this at a time when the IAF is in the process of acquiring over 100 medium multi-role combat aircraft.
Struggling to maintain adequate numbers, the IAF has started inducting Tejas with Initial Operating Clearance. It currently has nine Tejas jets in the Flying Daggers (No. 45) squadron, based at Sulur Air Force Station in Tamil Nadu. It is acquiring 40 fighters in the current configuration and 83 of the type Mark-I A.
During the conference, Dhanoa also defended the Rafale deal signed by the Narendra Modi government with France in 2016.
Air Marshal Shyam Bihari Prasad Sinha, who headed the negotiations with Dassault Aviation under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, has also countered the claims made by Congress President Rahul Gandhi in a presentation. He has put out a 10-point defence of the deal, using terms like like “better price terms”, “better overall delivery terms and timeline" and “longer industrial support commitment”. The officer has listed multiple reasons why the deal reached with France in 2016 is cleaner, better and more economical.
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