In the next two years, the Indian Air Force (IAF) will be left with an alarmingly low 26 squadrons of fighter aircraft against an authorisation strength of 42. This will be the case even if all the scheduled supplies, including of Rafale and Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, are completed on time, said a report published in Indian Express.
The IAF currently has 30 fighter squadrons, the number will slip to 26 in 2021 and 2022. By then, six squadrons of the old Soviet-era MIG aircraft will be decommissioned, and only one squadron of the French Rafale and another of the HAL-manufactured LCA Tejas will be additionally inducted, the report said.
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The number is projected to rise to 30 by 2027, with four more squadrons of LCA Tejas. The contract for these 83 LCA Tejas Mark1A is yet to be signed between the IAF and HAL, it further said.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, while visiting his home turf, Congress president Rahul Gandhi renewed his attack on Prime Minister Narendra over the Rafale aircraft deal, accusing the “watchman” of “giving” Rs 30,000 crore to industrialist Anil Ambani.
The charge has been repeatedly denied by the Modi government and the Reliance Group.
Gandhi's visit coincided with the appointment of his sister Priyanka Gandhi as the Congress general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh East, the region in which his Amethi constituency falls.
Against the backdrop of an alliance between Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party that has excluded the Congress, Gandhi made it clear that his party was all set to give a tough fight in the state in the coming Lok Sabha election.
“Now the Congress will work to install its own chief minister here. We will form the next government at the Centre, and will contest with full strength in UP."
Speaking at an event in Paraiya Naseerabad village, Gandhi alleged that Modi helped Ambani get a contract of Rs 30,000 crore from the French company Dassault that manufactures the military aircraft.
Gandhi also accused the BJP-led government of entering into an inflated deal for the aircraft compared to the price that the previous Congress-led government was negotiating, a charge again denied by the Modi government.
"Modiji says don't make me the Prime Minister, make me the chowkidar (watchman). But the chowkidar has taken Rs 30,000 crore from the Indian Air Force, and given it to Anil Ambani."
The Modi government has said it had nothing to do with the deal signed between Rafale manufacturer Dassault and the Ambani Group. Under India’s offset policy, foreign firms entering into defence contract must give business to Indian entities.
The Ambani Group has also said the business it will get from Dassault is less than the claimed Rs 30,000 crore.
Gandhi urged people to remove Modi and bring in a Congress government that works for the poor and the farmers.
“I will stand by you, wherever you need me. Not only for Amethi but in the entire country. Wherever I am needed, I will be present for you," he said.
Later, addressing village `pradhans’ at Fursatganj, Gandhi accused the Centre of trying to end the rural employment guarantee scheme MGNREGS.
He also criticised the government over demonetisation and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), saying it has hurt small traders.
(With PTI inputs)