Antony promises new-look Indian Air Force in two years

February 23rd, 2008 - 8:26 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of F-16

Bidar (Karnataka) Feb 23 (IANS) Saying that funds for modernisation would not be a constraint, Defence Minister A.K. Antony Saturday promised a new-look Indian Air Force (IAF) in two years - and announced it would get 40 more Hawk advanced jet trainers (AJT) in addition to the 66 it has already purchased. “In two years, the IAF will be equipped with the most modern equipment,” Antony told reporters on the sidelines of a function at this sprawling air base after inducting the BAE Systems Hawk into service.

“Yes, the air force will be purchasing 40 more Hawks. They will also get many more (indigenously developed) IJTs (intermediate jet trainers), Aerosat radars and UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles),” Antony added.

“In the past,” he explained, “there had been many constraints and the political will to take decisions was not there. This is changing fast. Hereafter, modernisation will take place very quickly.

“Money will not be a constraint,” he added.

The IAF, which has just signed a deal for purchasing six C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, will however have to wait longer than two years for its big-ticket purchase of 126 multi-role combat aircraft.

This is because the responses to the request for proposal (RFP) it had sent out six months ago will be received only on March 3. The technical bids from the six contenders in the fray will then be studied and the machines evaluated before the choice is narrowed down to one or two.

Price negations will then be conducted before the final contract is signed. This entire process will take at least two years and even then, it will be another two to three years before the first of the selected aircraft start arriving.

The US Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-16, the Russian MiG-35, the Swedish Grippen, the French Rafaele, and the Eurofighter Typhoon built by a European consortium are the aircraft in the fray.

Asked about his expectations from the budget for fiscal 2008-09 that Finance Minister P. Chidambaram will present in parliament on Feb 29, Antony replied: “I am hopeful we would get adequate funds.

“The government realises that rapid economic growth can be sustained if the security scenario is adequately addressed. There can be no compromise on this,” he added.

Asked when the second part of the report of a committee that had recommended fast tracking promotions in the armed forces as one of the ways to attract talent would be implemented, Antony said this was “under consideration”.

The first part of the report of the committee headed by former defence secretary A.V. Singh on speeding up promotions of officers up to colonel and equivalent in the three services has been implemented.

The second part is hanging fire as the three service chiefs do not see eye to eye on the additional posts of brigadier and equivalent that would have to be created as a consequence of speeding up the promotions of these officers.

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