The fighter squadron strength of the Indian Air Force (IAF) will reach the desired numbers by 2032, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said on Thursday.
Addressing the customary annual press conference here ahead of the October 8 IAF anniversary, the Air Force chief said that as squadrons of older fighter jets retire, Rafale fighters and Light Combat Aircraft Tejas would fill in the gap, and eventually, single-engine India-made fighter jets would take the numbers up to the desired 42 squadrons.
“There is a plan by the government of India to induct fighters and by the end of 15th Plan – 2032, we will have the authorised strength. But with the numbers that we have got, we are capable of carrying out operations anytime,” Dhanoa said.
At least 14 squadrons of MiG 21 and MiG 27 fighter jets are set to retire between 2015-2024, and one squadron of Jaguar fighter jets is to retire in 2027.
Dhanoa said the IAF would be buying 40 Tejas LCAs (Light Combat Aircraft) — 20 with Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) and 20 with Final Operational Clearance (FOC). In addition, 83 more LCAs are to be bought, which will make up for the requirement of single-engine aircraft.
“The Mig 21 and Mig 27 squadrons are going out. To make up for this number, 40 LCAs — 20 in IOC standard and 20 in FOC standard — and we will shortly issue an RFP for 83 more LCAs,” Dhanoa said.
Another 36 Sukhoi-30 fighters, and 36 Rafale jets which have been bought from France will also make up for the retiring squadrons.
“So, the numbers will not go down below what we are right now. We will start going up only when the single-engine fighters come in, that is when the numbers will start going up,” Dhanoa said.
The IAF currently has 33 combat squadrons against a sanctioned strength of 39.5, which is sought to be raised to 42. Former Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, in a press conference days before retiring in December last year, had said the IAF needed at least 200 more fighter jets in the next 10 years.