‘Besides substantially stretching our air defence umbrella from what we currently have, we will get viable shore-strike capability with the MiG-29Ks’
Flag Officer Naval Aviation, Rear Admiral Sudhir Pillai
What are your roles and responsibilities as Flag Officer Naval Aviation?
As Flag Officer Naval Aviation, I report to the Headquarters Naval Aviation. I am responsible to the Chief of Naval Staff through the deputy chief of naval staff for navy-wide aircraft maintenance, ensuring professional standards and issues like safety. In this sense, I have a vast responsibility of field management and maintenance.

What are the assets you currently hold and how do you see this station transforming in the next five years? What new assets will come by then?

I believe that we are in for a major transformation in the Indian Navy and in naval aviation in particular. Today, at this station, we have long range maritime patrol aircraft, medium range maritime patrol aircraft, fighter aircraft like the Sea Harriers and now MiG-29K.
In addition to that, we have a few training squadrons here. This naval air base is also home to Ka 31, the early warning aircraft. Yet, all this is set to change as we get ready to induct our next generation aircraft. While we already have the MiG-29K fighters, its training facilities are being set up, and in a few months time we will also get its simulator. In addition to these, several second line facilities will come up here. We also have the naval aircraft yard here which looks after the eastern origin aircraft.

How will MiG-29Ks change the station as well as the naval aviation operations?

MiG-29Ks are going to change the way we operate aircraft at sea. Their induction is going to definitively enhance our capabilities. Besides substantially stretching our air defence umbrella from what we currently have, we will get viable shore-strike capability with the MiG-29Ks. In addition to beyond visual range missiles, anti-ship missiles and precision guided munitions, the fighter also has buddy tanking capabilities. All this will extend the range of our operations and also give many tactical options, in addition to giving the fleet commander a very viable and potent weapon platform.

What is the induction schedule for the MiG-29Ks?

The first contract is for 16 aircraft. Six have already come, of which we have accepted four and we expect others to follow shortly. I understand that we have signed a subsequent contract for 29 additional MiG-29Ks. This should cater for, I believe, two squadrons and adequate reserves.

What is the status of IL-38SD? Are you still having problems with some parts of the Sea Dragon suite?

At the moment, we have five IL-38SD aircraft. This includes the two which we had lost earlier. The aircraft has a very good radar and electronic surveillance suite. Typically, once an aircraft comes back after upgrade and as it is flown, some problems are encountered and we address those. We are happy with the IL-38SD, even though there are some issues which we are trying to sort out.

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