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Force Magazine

Chinks in its Armour

IAF’s 82nd Raising Day parade highlighted that modernisation should not be delayed

By Dilip Kumar Mekala

Hindon: Modernisation has never ever been so crucial to the Indian Air Force (IAF) than it is today. This was amply evident at the 82nd Raising Day at Hindon air base, as the IAF put up a brave face trying to hide its shortcomings. Another year has passed by, urgently reminding the air force of its dwindling numbers of aircraft squadrons. “By 2017, the IAF would have less than the existing 35 fighter squadrons. Our minimum requirement remains 45 squadrons,” said Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha.

The two programmes that the IAF is banking on - Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas and Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) Rafale - are caught in numerous delays. While the final operational clearance (FOC) for the Limited Series Production Tejas will only happen next year by an optimistic estimate, the production for the LCA Mark-II, which the IAF originally wanted, would take a much longer time than expected. “There have been some slippages,” acknowledged the Air Chief. “The FOC was supposed to happen by December this year, but now it will happen in the middle of next year”, he said. After that, Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will build the LCA Mark-II based on the experience they gather from the Mark-I version, which itself is awaiting the FOC.

Furthermore, the IAF categorically stated that it is not looking for a Plan B if MMRCA with Dassault Aviation doesn’t work out. With no alternative plans for many of the fighter jet programmes, the IAF has a lot to worry about at this stage. “Contract negotiations were being carried out by the CNC through four sub-committees. Three CNC sub-committees negotiating ‘Maintenance’, ‘Offset’ and ‘Transfer of Technology’ have completed their negotiations and submitted their reports. The Contract sub-committee has resolved most of the contractual aspects with the representatives of Dassault Aviation and HAL. Certain pending issues will be resolved soon and a contract signed after obtaining CCS approval,” said ACM Raha.

Incidentally, a serving Air Vice Marshal Arjun Subramaniam recently wrote an editorial in The New Indian Express expressing his views on how the MMRCA programme is an absolute necessity. While doing so, he provided a glimpse into the alarming situation the IAF faces due to delays in the modernisation process. “The CAS did some plain talking at his traditional pre-Air Force Day press conference and clearly highlighted the operational gaps that exist with the IAF’s current force and capability levels, particularly in the offensive domain,” said AVM Subramaniam. Giving details, he said, “The main punch of the IAF revolves around the swing role capability of the Su-30MKI which is experiencing some maintenance problems that are under resolution. The Mirage-2000 and MiG-29 are in the midst of major upgrades which have long implementation periods into contemporary capability”.

Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha on the Raising Day
Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha on the Raising Day

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