Hope Rafale deal will be inked by year end: IAF chief

Hasimara (West Bengal): Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha on Saturday hoped the deal between India and France for Rafale fighter jets would be signed before end of this year.

Asked when was the deal for 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition expected to be inked, the Indian Air Force chief told IANS: "I hope it will happen by the year end."

"We expect it to happen quickly," he said.

Hasimara, around 15 km away from India-Bhutan border, has a crucial air base of India in the eastern sector. It has two squadrons of Mig 27s, which are likely to be phased out in the next few years.

According to sources, at least one of the Rafale squadrons is expected to be based here.

At an interaction with journalists earlier, Raha said that Rafale was one of the replacements for the Migs being phased out.

"The Mig 27, the ones which have not been upgraded, are going to retire in next 2-3 years. We have a roadmap for replacements," he said.

"Rafale is on the table. There are Su30 MKIs, the ones being made in India, and the LCA," he said.

The IAF currently has 33 combat squadrons against a sanctioned strength of 39.5, which is sought to be raised to 42.

On Saturday, President Pranab Mukherjee honoured two squadrons based at Hasimara, the 18 Squadron and the 22 Squadron, with President's Standard.

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