There will be an increase in the induction of transport aircraft and helicopters in the Indian Air Force (IAF) and their role will be expanded for deployment in conflicts, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne, Chief of Air Staff (CAS), said in Coimbatore on Tuesday.

Addressing mediapersons after the presentation of the President’s Standard to 25 Squadron and 33 Squadron at the Air Force Station, Sulur, the CAS said a fair amount of expansion for both was on the anvil.

“Six C-130J Hercules transport aircraft, designed to carry out special operations during combat, have already been inducted, and a contract for six more will be inked soon. Also, ten C-17 aircraft from the U.S. are expected to arrive in India and will become part of the IAF in June 2013. Such strategic airlift capabilities will be multiplied manifold. Ten more C-17 aircraft will join the IAF as part of phase II,” the Air Chief Marshal said.

The IAF was also looking at replacing IL-76 in the next 10 or 15 years with upgraded versions of AN-32s and C-17s.

On the upgrading of helicopters, of the 80 medium-lift Mi-17 V5 helicopters, for which a pact has been inked, 42 had already been inducted. A fresh contract to procure 59 more helicopters was expected to be signed soon, he said. When these got inducted into the Air Force, they were expected to become the backbone medium-lift capability in the Northern and Eastern sectors, he added. “Negotiations are on to induct 22 Apache attack helicopters, and heavy-lift Chinook helicopters in Chandigarh and Jorhat,” the CAS said.

On shortage of 700 pilots, he said “It was being made good” and by the end of the XII Plan period there was a proposal to enhance training capabilities to enable induction of more than 220 pilots every six months, the stipulated intake now.

Regarding induction of new helicopters into the Army and the Navy, he said the medium-lift, heavy-lift and attack helicopter units would continue to remain with the IAF because “duplication is going to cost the Government a lot of money”.

For such future acquisitions, the Army would have to make a fresh case with the Government, he added.

Commenting on the delay of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) into the IAF and early retirement of some aircraft, the Air Chief said the present combat squadron strength of 34 would not reduce in the XII and XIII Plan period.

“LCA will be inducted in 2015 and more squadrons of Sukhoi-30MKI will be formed in the near future. Numbers may go down but capabilities will be multiplied 10 times,” the Air Chief Marshal said. The tests for fitting the air variant of BrahMos in the Sukhoi aircraft were under progress and would be ready by 2013.

President’ Standard

Earlier, President Pranab Mukherjee presented the President’s Standard to 25 Squadron and 33 Squadron, two flying units of the Indian Air Force (IAF), at the Air Force Station at Sulur here.

The squadrons, equipped with AN-32 aircraft, were recognised with the President’s Standard in “recognition of exceptional service rendered by them to the nation, both in war and peace”.

The 25 Squadron, also called the ‘Himalayan Eagles’, is based in Vadodara, Gujarat, while the 33 Squadron called the ‘Soaring Storks’ is based in Sulur.

On his arrival, the President reviewed a parade where a formation was made by personnel carrying Insas rifles. Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne, Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal A.K. Gogoi, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, South Western Air Command, and Air Marshal R.K. Jolly, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Air Command, were accorded a salute.

Air formations by AN-32 and Dornier aircraft, and flypasts by ‘Sarang’, the Advanced Light Helicopters of the IAF, added colour to the ceremony.