Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marhsal P.V. Naik on Tuesday said the Indian Air Force would soon begin work to upgrade eight advanced landing grounds (ALG) in the north-eastern region while the frontline Sukhoi-30 MKI are already based there.

``We are in the process of upgrading eight ALGs and contract for it would be signed next month and the work should be complete in three years,’’ Air Chief Marshal Naik said at a press conference. He is retiring on July 31.

The move is part of the plan to shore up its defence along the Sino-Indian border and the IAF embarked on the modernisation of ALGs at Pasighat, Along, Menchuka and airfields at Chabua, Mohanbar, Jorhat, Hashimara, Tezpur.

Earlier, the IAF activated three ALGs including Daulat Beg Oldie and Nyoma that would allow landing of transport aircraft. The plan envisages faster movement of men and machines to these distant areas closer to the Sino-Indian border.

On the progress of 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft, he said the IAF does not have any favourites from among the two aircraft –Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale. The contract would go to the lowest offer when the commercial bids are opened in about five weeks’ time. He said the IAF has completed bench-marking while the Technical Offset Evaluation Committee is due to submit its report to the Ministry of Defence.

The Air Chief said the IAF has selected Swiss Pilatus trainer aircraft and negotiations to procure it would begin soon. The IAF plans to have 75 aircraft since the current training has been affected after problem with the engine of HPT32 Deepak trainer forcing the young pilots to train on Kiran.

In addition, he said, the IAF has already submitted staff evaluation reports pertaining to heavylift and attack helicopters to the Ministry. In the heavy-lift category, Boeing Chinook and Russian MI26 are in the race while Boeing’s Apachee is in contention for attack helicopter.

On the long-pending suggestion by the Group of Ministers on creation of a Chief of Defence Staff, the Air Chief who is the senior-most military commander in the country, said he does not favour such a post unless the person becomes the single-point military advisor to the Government. In any case, he said, such a post would require advanced technological inputs which are still being put in place.

Reaffirming India’s ability to carry out Abbottabad-type operation, he said: “We have the capability of conducting similar operation but not that operation’’. The Air Chief was responding to question on the U.S. Special Forces operation that led to the elimination of Osama Bin Laden in May this year

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