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Congress attacks BJP for buying only 36 Rafale jets

Asanna Gonmei |

The Congress on Saturday attacked the BJP-led central government for buying only 36 Rafale fighter jets from France instead of the 126 finalised during the UPA era, saying the situation for the Indian Air Force (IAF) was becoming "critical and volatile".

"During the UPA (United Progressive Alliance), we had planned to buy 126 aircraft to strengthen the IAF. Now that has been reduced to 36 aircraft," Congress leader A.K. Antony told reporters here.

"As per IAF, 126 was the minimum requirement for their urgent operational requirements," Antony said.

"Sanctioned strength of fighter jets in the IAF is 42 squadrons, and of late, the situation was becoming critical and volatile. The IAF needs more squadrons, current availability of fighter jets is 32 squadrons and by 2022 this will reduce to 25," the former Defence Minister said.

"What is the government’s plan? How will they bridge the gap with respect to China and Pakistan, who are building up their air strength?" Antony asked.

The Congress leader’s remarks come a day after India signed a 7.87 billion euros (about Rs 59,000 crore) deal with France to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets that will meet the IAF’s critical operational requirement for a multi-role combat aircraft and enhance its strategic reach, especially in Pakistan’s context.

"Today we read inspired pieces in some media, which claim the present government has saved money by hard negotiations. That’s not true," Antony said.