Hasten procurement process for air force, says Antony

April 21st, 2008 - 11:29 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 21 (IANS) At a time when the strength of Indian Air Force’s (IAF) fighting squadrons has hit an all-time low, Defence Minister A.K. Antony Monday said all measures would be taken to ensure that the force’s capability is in consonance with country’s stature and threat perceptions. “Our endeavour is not only to enhance the strategic reach of IAF, but also to attempt a fusion of potent capabilities in terms of space-based assets, air defence, surveillance, modern aircraft and advanced weapon systems,” said Antony, inaugurating the bi-annual IAF commanders’ conference here.

The air force is down to just 30-32 squadrons (each having 12-18 jets) at present and it will not be able to achieve its “sanctioned strength” even by 2017.

According to air force projections, it needs 44 squadrons to meet the possible contingency of “a full blown conflict” with Pakistan while maintaining a “dissuasive posture” against China.

The four-day conference is being attended by senior officers of IAF, including the Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major, and commander-in-chiefs of all air force commands.

The defence minister called upon the IAF top brass to hasten the procurement process “to plug gaps in our defence preparedness”.

Taking note of the long gestation period for the induction of new equipment, Antony asked the commanders to break down perspective plans for modernization into short-term and long-term objectives, taking into account country’s strategic requirements.

The first lot of the 126 new multi-role combat aircraft will be delivered only by 2012 at the earliest, after a six-year delay.

By then, IAF would have retired 100 more MiG-21s, which constitute the bulk of its combat fleet, and 40 more MiG-27s. To counter the sharp fall in numbers, the IAF has upgraded 125 MiG-21 ‘Bisons’ and 100 each of the MiG-27 MLs and Jaguars with new avionics, weapon systems and life-extension re-fits.

“Funds will not be a constraint for the modernisation process. However, the allocated funds must be utilized optimally and judiciously. While the drive for modernization must not suffer, we must be ever mindful for economy and avoid waste and duplication,” Antony said.

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