In an interview to Private TV News channel, Parrikar said the indigenous Tejas aircraft can replace the MiG-21.
“We have 42 squadrons, we need 36-38 active squadrons. We are phasing out MiG-21. Rafale is not a replacement for MiG. It satisfies the upper end. IAF needs aircraft with capacity of 1,000 km radius. It is a strategic purchase. The earlier government should have taken decisions on government-to-government deals,” Parrikar said.
The comment comes as India announced it will buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France in fly-away condition.
Parrikar said the Indian Air Force needs new fighters within a short time frame and so this government to government deal was finalised.
“We have not purchased all 36 aircraft. When there is a PM or President level deal, it is matter of principle clearance. We have promised to purchase 36 aircraft. The major reason for the deal is to induct it in the minimum time frame. It is a good deal,” he said.
“Rafale is a top end fighter and satisfies other criterion as well. The aircraft is expensive and hence we have to take steps. Rafale cannot replace MiG-21, Tejas can do that. We won’t induct any low end aircraft. Tejas is a lighter aircraft, it has its limitations. It cannot loiter for hours. Its carrying capacity is only 10-12 tonnes whereas Rafale can carry 24 tonnes,” he said.
The minister also said the IAF “desperately” needs fourth generation aircraft.
“We have not purchased any new aircraft of latest technology in the past 15 years. IAF desperately needs fourth generation aircraft, the fifth generation that we are working on will take 10-15 years,” he said.