Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Saturday that the number of fighter jets required by the Air Force changes from time to time, and the situation was different in 2001 when India decided to purchase 126 aircraft. One of the questions raised by the Congress about the Rafale deal is why the Narendra Modi government decided to buy only 36 aircraft instead of 126 as planned originally.
Ms Sitharaman was answering queries after delivering a lecture on ''India's National Security and Importance of Rafale Deal'' in Ahmedabad.
Asked about the number of fighter jets required by the Air Force, she said, "When the decision of procurement of 126 fighter jets was arrived at in 2001, the requirement of the Air Force was higher. Now after 20 years the situation has changed."
"Now you have UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles or drones), so in a situation of war are we required to send a trained pilot in a fighter plane inside the enemy borders? So requirements change from time to time.
"In the UPA deal, they were just procuring 18 Rafale in fly-away condition, but we are procuring 36, the delivery for which will start form September. For the rest that have to be manufactured we have issued a request for information (RFI)," she said.
"We have given the contract to HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd) for 83 light combat fighter aircraft. Sukhois are being manufactured in India," the Defence Minister added.
Ms Sitharaman said neither she nor her predecessors Arun Jaitley and Manohar Parrikar had any doubts about the PM's decisions on Rafale.
Under the UPA, defence procurement declined as "national security was not a priority but somebody else''s financial security was a priority," she alleged.
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