Force levels may go down rapidly, warns Air chief
press trust of india
New Delhi, 4 October
The IAF is operating with “much less” aircraft than its authorised strength of 42 combat squadrons and in case of any further delay in the proposed 126 fighter jet deal, the force levels in the service will “go down rapidly,” its chief, NAK Browne said today.
“The authorisation is for 42 squadrons of fighter aircraft. Presently, we are much less than that… In the 12th and 13th Plan (2012-2022), we have to maintain a certain force level because that is where the maximum draw down is taking place. So, we lose a number of squadrons in these two plan periods,” he said here in his annual press conference.
“In case, the MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) does not come to us in the end of the 12th Plan (2017), then our force levels will go down rapidly. That is what we have to prevent. We have to maintain force levels to provide deterrent capabilities to the country,” Air Chief Marshal Browne said. To a query on a possible timeline for the completion of the project, he said the IAF cannot set one as Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Dassault Aviation have to sign a joint cooperation agreement for producing the aircraft in the country.
Asked if the IAF has any back up plan in case the arrival of MMRCA is delayed, Chief Browne said, “In my opinion the right thing is to stick to one plan. We will lose our way if we keep having back up plans.
He said some aircraft types, which are scheduled for a gradual phase-out, will have to be given a life extension to ensure that the Air Force maintains a certain strength. “If we can’t do that (give extension), then it is necessary that LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) comes at the earliest, MMRCA comes on schedule. If we sign the MMCA contract next year, we will get the first plane in 2017, and 2017 is the end of the 12th plan. We cannot delay it beyond that,” he said.
He hoped that 20 years from now, the country should be able to produce MMRCA kind of aircraft in one of the base repair depots (BRDs).
On the current steep fall in the value of the rupee having a bearing on defence acquisitions, the Air Chief said exchange rate variations are always factored in when contracts are signed. “This is very much part of acquisition and financial process. It does not mean that henceforth if the rupee has fallen from 55 to let us say 62 (against US$), there is going to be a tremendous amount of change. Yes, there will be a change but it will be well within the range,” he said.
Nyoma airbase: As part of efforts to build up military infrastructure along the border with China, the air chief said the IAF plans to develop a fighter aircraft base at Nyoma in Ladakh and is upgrading seven airfields for carrying out 24×7 operations in the northeast. The IAF is also considering extending the runway length and upgrading the Kargil airfield close to the LoC with Pakistan.