NATIONAL

IAF working on weapon platforms in space

NEW DELHI OCT. 6. Six months after Parliamentarians expressed concern over little conceptual work having been done on setting up of an aerospace command to bring under one umbrella the country's space-based military assets, the Chief of Air Staff, S. Krishnaswamy, today said work had begun to have weapon platforms in space.

"Any country on the fringe of space technology like India has to work towards such a command as advanced countries are already moving towards laser weapon platforms in space. The IAF has started work on conceptualising such a weapons systems and its operational command system," he said.

Although the Defence Ministry is tight-lipped on the subject, withholding information even to Parliamentarians, the IAF chief is learnt to have initiated preliminary work. In a closed-door meeting with his commanders last year, he had attended perhaps the first-ever presentation on the subject and maintained that the IAF could aspire to transform itself into an air and space force in order to militarily exploit the medium of space to the maximum.

Perhaps responding to criticism that the IAF was attempting to carve out a larger role for itself, he had said there was no intention of encroaching upon the Indian Space Research Organisation's territory. By embracing the concept, the IAF in future would be known as the Indian Air and Space Force, he had hoped.

Interacting with the media before the annual Air Force Day, the IAF chief hoped that the indigenously-developed replacement for MiG-21s — Tejas — would enter service by 2007. "In the beginning, we will set up a handling squadron in 2006-07, with air-to-ground infrastructure and radars to accommodate the first batch of LCAs entering service. Based on the feedback from this, we will plan further moves." He said the IAF was projecting a requirement of 200 Tejas (technically called the light combat aircraft — LCA), and like the U.S. Air Force which calls its latest version of F-16s "Block 60", based on the level of development, the Tejas will be called Block 10 in 2007.

The IAF, he said, was satisfied with its modernisation schedule. It had acquired strategic depth and operational capability with the induction of mid-air refuellers. "We have already conducted exercises with refuellers between Pune and Car Nicobar and the deployment capability had been proven with aircraft remaining in the air for over 10 hours without landing''.

However, he conceded there were "hiccups" in the indigenous Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme but said the slippages in the development of quick reaction and medium range missiles were temporary. As a stop-gap measure, the IAF could opt for imported missiles.

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