Even as the government and the opposition indulge in a war of words over the Rafale jets deal, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa has put his weight behind the government over the deal saying India needs the fighters more than any other country in the face of the “grave threats” it is facing.

He said intentions of adversaries could change overnight and the Air Force needed to match their force level.

“Very few countries are facing challenges like us. We have two nuclear-armed neighbours. We have to match neighbours Pakistan and China to tackle a two-front war,” Dhanoa said at a seminar on ‘IAF’s force structure, 2035’.

The air chief said the government was procuring the Rafale jets and S-400 missile systems to enhance IAF’s capability.

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“By providing the Rafale and the S-400 (anti-missile system), the government is strengthening the Indian Air Force to counter the shortfall of our depleting numbers of aircraft,” he said at the event.

Dhanoa also justified procurement of only two Rafale jet squadrons, saying there were example of similar purchases.

Commenting on the IAF’s strength coming down to 31 squadrons from the sanctioned strength of 42, Dhanoa said India faced a shortage of fighter aircraft despite the threat of a two-front war with Pakistan and China.

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The IAF chief’s comments come a day after former Bharatiya Janata Party ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie called the Rafale deal calling it country’s “biggest defence scam” and alleged Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “personal culpability” in it.

Earlier in September, IAF Vice Chief Air Marshal SB Deo too had batted for the Rafale deal saying the jets would give India “unprecedented combat capabilities”.

The Rafale is a twin-engine multirole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation, France.

(With agency inputs)