Amid the political sparring over the Rafale aircraft deal, the Indian Air Force (IAF) chief today reiterated that there will be no delay in the delivery of the jets from France. The first planes should arrive by 2019, he said, but refused to elaborate on the matter.
Nevertheless, Air Marshal BS Dhanoa -- who was addressing the media on the sidelines of an event presided by President Ramnath Kovind in Guwahati -- spoke freely on other aircraft likely to be added to the IAF's arsenal soon. The most significant among those are 231 indigenously built light-combat jets that would help enhance the armed forces' air combat capabilities.
Earlier in the day, Mr Kovind presented the prestigious presidential colours to the 118 Helicopter Unit and presidential standard to the Air Defence College amid great fanfare at the Guwahati Air Force Station. Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Air Marshal Raghunath Nambiar also attended the event.
The presidential standard and colours are the highest honour bestowed on units of the armed forces in recognition of their invaluable contribution to national security during both war and peace.
The 18 Helicopter Unit, known as the Challengers, is based at the Guwahati Air Force Station under the Eastern Air Command. The only attack chopper unit in the Northeast, it has fought in the 1971 India-Pakistan war and participated in several flood rescue operations during peace time.
The Air Defence College at Lucknow, on the other hand, was feted for being the country's only centre that imparts advance training to IAF fighter controllers. It was established as the Control & Reporting School at Jodhpur in 1958.
The deal for acquiring 36 Rafale fighter jets from France has turned into a huge political controversy, with the opposition Congress alleging that aircraft manufacturer Dassault was forced to pick industrialist Anil Ambani as an offset partner under pressure from the Narendra Modi government. The centre denies the charges.
Disclaimer: NDTV has been sued for 10,000 crores by Anil Ambani's Reliance Group for its coverage of the Rafale deal.
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