New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) aims to acquire a global status 'as fast as' it can, even as it boasts of a strategic reach that can take its aircraft 'anywhere' in the world, its new chief, Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major, declared Monday. ACM Major was speaking at his first media interaction after assuming office on March 31.
'We are already a regional air force to reckon with. My aim is to acquire a global status as fast as we can,' declared ACM Major before a large media contingent.
'A credible, more meaner and more potent air force shall be our endeavour,' he added.
A transformation, from a low-end to a high-end technology force, 'would take time' ACM Major stated, even as he maintained that 'force structuring and equipment profiling, and what we would need to do to take the IAF far beyond where it now is, would be my aim.
'I have been handed a fine air force and I aim to take it further. In the next couple of years, I envisage an air force that is fully integrated into all facets of national growth' he added.
Talking about the strategic reach of the air force, ACM Major pointed out that the induction of the IL-78 midair refueling aircraft had given the IAF's fighter aircraft the capability to 'fly anywhere around the globe'. The IAF, currently operates six midair refueling aircraft, and is set to order another six. The IL-78 is used in tandem with the IAF's Sukhoi Su-30, Mirage-2000 and Jaguar fighter aircraft.
Strategic reach would extend beyond the confines of the globe as well with the creation of a tri-services aerospace command. ACM Major pointed out that he would 'vigorously pursue' the move to create an aerospace command that his predecessor, ACM (retd) SP Tyagi had mooted three years ago.
'There is urgent need for such a command, which will be a tri-services entity with the air force playing a lead role. As to its form and shape and when it will come about is an issue that is being debated. It will definitely be a reality sooner rather than later,' the ACM maintained.
ACM Fali Major also forecast greater integration of operations with the Indian Army and the Navy, and an increased role for the IAF in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir, the northeast and possibly in Maoist dominated areas, the air chief said: 'We have the capability to use air power in every spectrum of conflict. The use of this depends on the government.'
In this context, the planned acquisition of six Hercules C-130J heavy transport aircraft along with a similar number of Mi-17 1V medium-lift helicopters would add tremendous punch to the IAF, Major pointed out.
'I will ensure that there is absolute synergy with the other two arms (of the defence forces) as also with the other agencies dealing with national security,' Major said.
ACM Major was particularly glad of the fact that the IAF had also achieved its lowest accident rate of 0.36 per cent in its 75-year history. He attributed the lowest ever accident rate to 'one hell of a lot of effort' by the people involved.
'I will blow my trumpet to say that the people involved (the directorate general of air safety at air headquarters) did a magnificent job, given the varied and vintage inventory of the IAF fleet."
The air force currently operates and maintains over 20 models of combat jets, transports and trainers, some of them of Soviet-era vintage.
Some other aims…
Responding to queries about the delay in acquiring 126 multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA), ACM Major refused to put a date as to when the order would be placed for the aircraft. In this context, he added that the induction of a fifth generation combat jet, that is to be jointly developed with Russia, was at least a decade away.
As for gaps in the radar coverage over peninsular India, Major mentioned that this was being plugged with new acquisitions and by integrating military and civilian systems.
He also spoke of greater cohesiveness with the civil aviation sector by opening up more and more IAF airfields to domestic flights. In this regard he mentioned that the air force would release some 15-20 pilots at regular intervals to enable them begin a 'second career' with the flag carrier Air India.
ACM Major also promised a 'fair, just and transparent' administrative system in which 'merit, seniority and effort' would play an 'important part' in the upward progress of the men and women serving in the IAF.