Situation in country’s neighbourhood a matter of concern: Air Chief

The Tiger Moth aircraft of the 1930 vintage was the cynosure of all eyes during a flypast at the Air Force Day parade at the Hindon air base on the outskirts of the capital on Monday. The aircraft stole the show in the absence of aerobatic display by the grounded Suryakiran planes and Sarang helicopter squad.

On the 80th anniversary of the IAF, the Tiger Moth biplane, the first resurrected aircraft of the vintage squadron of the force, was the only new addition to the flying display team for the event.

As soon as the yellow-coloured aircraft, which saw action during World War II, took off, it was greeted by a thunderous applause from the gathering which included families of air warriors and school children.

The IAF is planning to resurrect around six old aircraft for the vintage squadron that will include a Wapiti, Howard, Spitfire and three other planes. The indigenously-developed Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft (AEW&C) along with the Russian-origin Mi-17 V5 choppers were showcased for the first time as part of the static display.

“The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited is adding some safety features in all the Dhruv choppers and that is why they are not here. In next two months, they will start aerobatic practice,” IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne told journalists.

The IAF has initiated the process of raising a new aerobatic display team with Advanced Jet Trainer ‘Hawk’ aircraft and a ‘request for proposal’ (RFP) has already been issued to the British BAE systems for supplying 20 new planes for the purpose, he said.

The other aircraft which took part in the aerial display included the frontline Su-30MKI, Mirage 2000, Jaguar, MiG 21s and C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft.

On the new aerobatic team being formed by the IAF, the Air Chief said the government had given approval for procuring 20 new Hawk AJT aircraft and it was expected by 2013-end.

On the increasing role of women pilots in the force, he said as many as 55 women pilots were engaged in flying helicopters such as Cheetah, Chetak and the Mi-8 and transport aircraft like the Ilyushin-76 and AN-32. However, he added that there was no woman pilot flying attack choppers such as the Mi-35.

Addressing the parade, the IAF Chief said the situation in country’s neighbourhood was a matter of serious concern. “The present times are both interesting and challenging. The deteriorating security situation in the neighbourhood and its frequent violent manifestations are a matter of serious concern to us,” he said stressing that the need of the hour was to be ever-vigilant and prepared.

On the phasing out of combat aircraft such as the MiG 21 and MiG 23 from service, Air Chief Marshal Browne said despite phasing out of the legacy aircraft, the IAF maintained very high combat potential through the raising of new Su-30MKI squadrons.

The IAF is planning to raise 14 squadrons of the Su-30MKI fighter jets and is planning to deploy them at several places in its Eastern, Southern and South-Western command areas. The mid-life upgrade of aircraft such as the Mirage 2000 and Jaguar would enhance their capabilities and “add punch to the country’s air power,” he said.

On the proposed induction of new aircraft, he said the AW-101 aircraft from Italy for ferrying VVIPs were expected to be inducted by next year along with Pilatus basic jet trainers from Switzerland.

“The IAF has truly transformed into a strategic Air Force — fully ready and committed to guard our nation’s vital interests. Our capacity to embrace emerging technologies with contemporary systems and to quickly adapt to produce a range of sovereign options has always been the cornerstone of our history,” the Air Chief said.

“In a short time of only eight months, we inducted four Mi-17V5 helicopter units and these are actively deployed in our Western and North Eastern sectors. The remaining two V5 helicopter units would be operationalised by the end of this year. Our C-130J fleet is fully operational today and is regularly conducting missions across its entire operational envelope,” the IAF chief said.

The Air Force was currently implementing the second phase of the Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS) which would cover the entire Indian airspace including that of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

More In: National | News