IAF chief flags delays in manufacture of equipment

Chief of the Air Staff B.S. Dhanoa. File   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has not shifted any goal posts and is fully committed to indigenisation, Air Chief Marshal (ACM) BS Dhanoa said on Thursday while flagging delays in domestic development and manufacture of defence equipment. Air power, he said, was a expensive proposition.

“IAF has not shifted any goal posts as alleged. The development has taken such an incredibly long time that armament and technology has gone obsolete… I as the service chief can make concessions to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Will the enemy make concessions to me when I go and meet the enemy?” said ACM Dhanoa at the 10th Jumbo Majumdar international lecture organised by the Centre for Air Power Studies. “In combat, there is no silver medal. Either you win or you lose.”

His comments come in the backdrop of recent reports that IAF has been changing parameters of indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas adding to the delay in development. The IAF has contracted for 40 LCA Mk-I jets, issued a Request For Proposal (RFP) for 83 LCA Mk-IA variants and committed to procure 12 squadrons of LCA Mk-II and eventually the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

ACM Dhanoa said a crucial contribution to the success of indigenisation was also the sacrifice of IAF’s pilots in testing these aircraft to battle worthy standards. “We have lost 17 pilots and engineers in air accidents during testing and evaluation of the indigenous Marut, Kiran, Ajeet, Saras and early warning prototype aircraft,” he said. Air power would remain a major player in future conflicts, he stated. Investment in air power was an expensive proposition. For instance, each Su-30 costs ₹417 crores. Even the LCA Mk I costs ₹191 crores.

IAF chief flags delays in manufacture of equipment

There had to be a mix high, medium and low technology, ACM Dhanoa said. “It’s the high end fighters and other equipment that help you shape the air battle for others to be able to carry out their task.” The Rafale jets and the S-400 air defence systems fit in this, he observed.

ACM Dhanoa said that as on date, the backlog with HAL due to long overhaul cycle and delays in upgradation was approximately of one squadron Jaguars, nearly two squadrons of Su-30MKI and one squadron Mirage-2000 jets.

Further, production of Su-30 is delayed by over two years and LCA production commitment by over six years. “To make up for losses HAL has to play a key role to step up manufacture and overhaul,” he said. He also highlighted that the IAF had maintained the Air Staff Quality Requirements (ASQR) of the first 20 LCA Mk I at standards issued in 1985.

ACM Dhanoa said that to overcome production delays and the falling number of fighter squadrons emergency purchases had to be made.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 10:49:01 PM |

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