Gurugram (Haryana) [India], July 27 (ANI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi 'cut the clutter' around the earlier Rafale deal and took a bold step to ensure its timely arrival in the country, said Air Marshal (Retired) Raghunath Nambiar on Monday after five Rafale jets took off for India from France.
"The Prime Minister, to put it in simple words, cut the clutter. We were engrossed in the procurement of these 126 aircraft and we were going nowhere. There was no way forward other than for the government to step in and take a very bold and correct step," Nambiar told ANI here.
"We must consider it very fortunate that this step was taken by the Prime Minister, otherwise, today we wouldn't have had the Rafale," he added.
He further praised the aircraft and said it will dominate the sky after it starts operating from Ambala and other bases, and gave India an edge over Pakistan and China.
"Rafale is the best aircraft in the sky at this time. To compare it with what Pakistan has, like F-16 and JF-17, wouldn't be anything serious. If you had to compare Rafale against Chengdu J-20, I think Rafale stands head and shoulders above them," Nambiar said.
He, however, added that India needed 114 more aircraft to keep the Air Force strong, apart from Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mach-1A, Sukhoi-30, or MiG-29 which will be arriving soon.
In a long-awaited development, five Rafale fighter aircraft today took off for India from an airbase in France to join the Indian Air Force fleet in Ambala on Wednesday.
The fighter aircraft were flagged off by the Indian Ambassador to France from an airbase in Merignac in France where the Ambassador interacted with the India crew flying it back to India.
The five aircraft flying to India today include seven Indian pilots including the commanding officer of the 17 Golden Arrows squadron.
All the pilots have been trained on the aircraft by the French Dassault Aviation company as per the agreement signed for the biggest ever defence deal signed by India in 2016 for acquiring 36 Rafale jets for over Rs 60,000 crores.
The aircraft would make their first stopover at a French base in the United Arab Emirates on their way to India and would be refuelled by French Air Force tanker aircraft somewhere around Greece or Israel over sea before landing there.
After a stopover, they will then proceed towards Ambala from there and reach by July 29 morning. The delivery of the aircraft was earlier supposed to have been done by May end but this was postponed by two months in view of the COVID-19 situation in both India and France. (ANI)