New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) has launched a modernisation plan for 39 of its airbases, which will include installation of surveillance devices in an attempt to enhance security in the current terrorist dominated threat environment.
According to the IAF chief of staff, Air Chief Marshal Fali H Major, the force has floated a global tender to modernise 39 of its airfields to a universal standard that would allow the operation of all types of aircraft. "The ultimate aim is that all the bases can handle every single type of aircraft," he said.
The ACM was speaking at a press conference in advance of Air Force Day celebrations that is scheduled for 8 October.
The chief also said that the IAF was filling in low-level gaps in the southern peninsula through the induction of additional radars. He also said that it wanted to jointly manage air space all over the country along with the civil aviation sector in order to enhance domain awareness.
He said that the Tezpur air base would be the first in the eastern region to host the potent Sukhoi-30 MKI fighters. Speaking about the region, he said, "The prime minister, during his visit to the north-east recently, announced development works, including better roads, advanced landing grounds, etc.
In the IAF, we have brought forward some programmes to beef up the infrastructure in the north-east."
He also said that the IAF wants Hindustan Aeronautical Ltd to boost annual production of Su-30MKI aircraft to around 23, about half more than the 15 being currently produced.
Another area of focus for the air force, the chief said, was modernisation of its transport fleet. The nearly 100 AN-32 medium transporters were being upgraded but would ultimately be replaced with medium transport aircraft jointly designed and produced by India and Russia.
The IAF would also replace the heavy transporter IL-76 with a very heavy transport aircraft.
"We are working out the air staff qualitative requirements and wish to issue the request for information very soon. We are also in the process of upgrading the Dorniers with better avionics and are considering the induction of the indigenously developed light category Saras aircraft," he said.
The IAF was also planning the purchase of six additional air-to-air refuellers and negotiations were underway with Ilyushin and Airbus. The IAF already has half a dozen refuellers which has vastly enhanced the range of its front-line fighters.
The IAF will soon finalise the purchase of 80 Mi-17s, 125 light utility helicopters to replace the Cheetah and Chetak fleet, eight VVIP helicopters and four of its cargo version. It would also induct 38 indigenous Dhruv helicopters and 16 of its armed versions with a glass cockpit and new engines.
Negotiations with Russia for designing and developing a fifth-generation fighter aircraft are being held on job share and costing.
Asked about plans to purchase precision guided missiles, the air chief said, "We are looking at this all the time. The need to integrate missiles with the aircraft is the challenge. You don't just go to the market, buy a missile and put it on the plane."
On service chiefs approaching the prime minister on the pay issue, he said, "I, as the Chief of Air Staff, and the other two service chiefs, after going through the pay panel report, had put up a few issues which we wanted the Government to reconsider."