New Delhi: With the Supreme Court clearing the Government’s name in the Rafale fighter jet deal, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has again spoken up in favour of the plane purchase. Air Chief Marshal Birendra Singh Dhanoa has said that while the country has been debating the deal, rival nations have upgraded their respective systems. (Also read: Cong, CPI(M)’s Adjournment Motion Notices Stall Work at Parliament)

In Jodhpur to review the Indo-Russia joint air force exercise, Dhanoa said on Wednesday that politics should not figure in issues related to security of the country. “Who says we don’t need Rafale? The Government says we need Rafale, we are saying we need Rafale, the SC has given a fine judgement,” he said. “It took us so long that our adversaries have already upgraded their system. Rafale is a game-changer.” (Also read: ‘Current Deal Better Than Earlier One,’ Says IAF Deputy Chief)

He added that the fighter jets would be inducted in the IAF by 2020. “The first of the fighter jets are expected to be part of our squadrons by September 2020,” Dhanoa reportedly said.

“The country needs powerful fighter jets like Rafael,” he said, adding that the force was experiencing a shortage of combat aircraft. On the debate surrounding the deal, Dhanoa said it would not be appropriate to speak about it, “but, I want to say that the country has lost a lot in the case of Bofors gun earlier. After the Bofors episode, the army could not find any new gun for many years. Learning from this, we hope Rafale is kept out of the ambit of politics.”

Officials at the exercise said that the IAF required 42 squadrons of fighter planes but was making do with only 31 squadrons. The IAF needs fourth- and fifth-generation fighter aircraft. He said every taxpayer had the right to question the expenses incurred in the purchase but putting critical details of the aircraft in the public domain could be exploited by the enemy.

India signed an agreement with France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in a fly-away condition at an estimated cost of the deal is Rs 58,000 crore.