Rafale deal to strengthen air force numbers, says IAF chief Birender Singh Dhanoa

New Delhi, Sep 12: After Vice-Chief, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa on Wednesday has backed the government on the controversial Rafale deal amid a raging political row, saying that the Rafale deal will help in strengthening the air force numbers.

Speaking to media, IAF chief said,''By providing the Rafale and S-400, the government is strengthening the Indian Air Force to counter the short falls of our depleting numbers.''

''What we do not have are the numbers, against a sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons, we are down to 31. Even when we do have 42 squadrons, we will be below the combined numbers of two of our regional adversaries,'' he also said.

The air force chief's statement comes a day after the government was accused of using men and women in uniform to defend the Rafale deal.

Earlier, IAF Vice Chief Air Marshal SB Deo, too, had recently backed the Rafale purchase calling it a "beautiful" aircraft. He had said that those criticising the deal must understand the procurement norms.

During his visit to France, Modi on April 10, 2015 announced that India will purchase 36 Rafale jets in a government-to-government agreement. The Rs 58,000 crore deal was sealed in September 2016.

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