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IAF's Modernisation Projects' 75% Completion By 2022: Air Chief Marshal Browne

India's air force will complete 75 per cent of its ambitious modernisation programme by 2022 when the nation's 13th five year plan ends, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne said ahead of the force's 80th anniversary celebrated on October 8.

He also said that the IAF was "fully ready, committed, capable and confident" of achieving all the task assigned to it by the nation.

Here is a low down on what Browne said on various issues concerning the IAF:

* Modernisation: In the last five years under the 15-year modernisation programme, IAF spent Rs.150,000 crore (around $30 billion) on procurement contracts. By 2022, about 75 per cent of the modernisation programme will be completed.

* Exercises: In February 2013, Exercise Iron Fist will be held at Pokhran to display fire power of IAF in which President Pranab Mukherjee, who is also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, will be chief guest. In March 2013, Exercise Live Wire will involve all commands of the IAF in a massive nationwide air power exercise to test operational readiness. In July 2013, IAF will send its combat planes to the prestigious US Air Force's Exercise Red Flag at Nellis Air base to compete with many other air forces. In October end this year, joint training exercise with Singaporean Air Force at Kalaikunda in West Bengal, when the Singapore air chief will also be here. 

* Sukhoi: 10th Su-30 Squadron will be raised in Punjab sector under Western Air Command from December this year over the next six months. Three or four more squadrons is being raised, to have a total of 13 or 14 squadrons. Once these raised, India will base its first fighter squadron in Tamil Nadu at Thanjavur when Sukhois will be based there. Two squadrons already based in Eastern sector, two more will come up there.

* Sukhoi upgrade: In talks with Russia and HAL for the latest modified plane. Will be an entirely new plane in terms of radar and avionics, etc. Dialogue with Russia for full access to software, equipment on aircraft, etc.

* C-130J: Contract for six more of these US Lockheed Martin planes for special operations to be signed soon for foreign military sales from US government. The new squadron will be based in Panagarh in West Bengal to cover entire Eastern sector and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

* Mi-17V5: Four squadrons already operational since February 2012 with one squadron each for Northern, Western and two in Eastern sectors. By December this year, a squadron each in Eastern and South Western sectors will become operational. India had a contract with Russia for 80 of these choppers. Contract for additional 59 more of these choppers to be signed within next few months.

* MMRCA: Contract negotiation for 126 planes progressing well, on track with Dassault for its Rafale jets. All hopes to sign it before the end of this fiscal in March 2013. Once Rafale induction starts, first two squadrons will come up under Western Air Command with the first at Ambala, followed by two squadrons in Eastern Air Command, one each in South-Western Air Command and Central Air Command. In all six squadrons will be raised immediately after induction that will take place five to six years from the signing of contract.

*ODL: RFP to be issued shortly. First phase already completed last month through a pilot project for the operational data link (ODL).

* Andaman and Nicobar: Already have Carnic air base there. No immediate plans for another new operational base there. But in the long run of about seven to eight years, we may have another fully operational air base in the island territories. But it will be a tri-services effort.

* MiG-27: Four MiG-27 squadrons (two each at Kalaikunda, Jodhpur) operational now, but the planes will be phased out by 2016-17 onwards.

* MiG-29: Will be the only MiG series combat jets in IAF from 2017 onwards.

* Space Command: All three services have to look at a joint bigger structure in the years to come for aerospace, cyber and special operations by combining capabilities. Already space cell functioning under the Integrated Defence Staff headquarters. But approach paper being prepared to discuss with government on joint space command. Doesn't matter which service has a space asset, all have to put in joint structures to deal with heaps and heaps of space issues. Next space asset will be GSAT-7A for the IAF that is to be used by Army too.

* LCA Tejas: The operational clearance of LCA, with GE404 engine, has slipped and it is expected by third quarter of 2013. The plane will participate in Exercise Iron Fist next year. LCA MkII will have GE414 engines, for which contract has been signed and is expected to be operational by 2016-18, that is in another four to five years.

* Avro replacement: RFP for 56 planes not yet issued, but all technical details finalised. It will be an Indian private industry opportunity as Defence Public Sector Undertakings have been kept out. Private industry can tie up with foreign original equipment manufacturers for this RFP bidding.

* MiG-21: Last bach of pilots going through Stage-III training on these supersonic jets of Soviet vintage, the first to be held in IAF fleet. Of the three squadrons in training, the one Type 77 squadron will retire from service in January-February 2014 after training is completed for this batch of pilots. But two Type 96 squadrons, which are fully combat worthy, will return to operational role after training completed. From 2014, all stage-III pilot training will happen on Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers.

* Attack helos: Apache from US' Boeing stable finalised as the choice for 22 choppers required by IAF. Fully combat worthy as proved in conflicts in Afghanistan and other places around the world, capable of defending itself and troops and assets on ground, as also to engage air targets. Once contract is signed, it will take three to four years for induction.

*MAFI: First air base to be modernised is Bhatinda, following which five more bases will be taken up under the project simultaneously.

* Jaguar re-engine: RFP to be out any time now within this month.

* Mirage-2000: Trying to get two planes to replace the two trainers lost in air crashes. Upgrade programme for which contract signed with French firms is for 51 planes, but only 49 available now due to the two crashes. The two replacements will make up the 51 planes to be upgraded.

* Heavy lift helos: Bids of US Boeing Chinook and Russia Mil Mi-26 opened recently and the life cycle cost is being worked out.

* Midair refueller: Bids from Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) and the Russian Ilyushin-78 tankers opened this week and life cycle costs being worked out.

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