New Delhi, Oct 3: Admitting that there is a shortage of fighters, the Indian Air Force (IAF) chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, said on Saturday he is “hopeful” that the deal for purchasing 36 Rafale jets off-the-shelf from France will be finalised by the year-end. (Read: Mumbai Metro set to become germ-free)

He said that the negotiations for the deal, finalised during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to France in April, was progressing well. “I am hopeful that the negotiations for the deal will not go beyond this year,” the air chief said at the annual conference ahead of Air Force Day on October 8. “This is my feeling,” he added.

The air chief said it will take two to three years for the first of two Rafale squadrons to be operational. He also said that at least six squadrons of medium multi-role combat aircraft were required, adding that the decision on acquiring these will be taken by the government.