Singapore: The Indian Air Force is ''conceptualising and developing plans'' for a satellite-based ''eyes in the skies'' project designed to enhance the country's ''strategic reach and capabilities,'' according to Indian Air Force chief, air chief marshal FH Mistry.
Speaking to the media at the Singapore Airshow 2008 ACM Mistry said that the ''eyes in the skies'' project would be part of the proposed aerospace command mooted a couple of years ago.
ACM Mistry clarified that the project was not aimed at ''weaponising Space.'' According to the ACM, the project was necessary, as the Indian defence services had nothing in place today. He said that eventually four or six satellites would be deployed to make use of Space for a variety of purposes, including defence.
He also clarified that the idea for an Indian aerospace command plan was floated at least a year before the anti-satellite test conducted by China in 2007.
According to ACM Mistry, the Indian project would be ''absolutely indigenous.'' He also clarified that there was ''no connection'' between the Indian Space Research Organisation and the aerospace command.
Talking about the nature of the aerospace command, he said that though a tri-service command might be needed, ''it is logical that we [the IAF] should be in the lead [as] air and space are very close.''
He also said that as the project would be ''very expensive, we have to go about it in an incremental manner.''
ACM Major was in Singapore to participate in a conference of Asia-Pacific air chief's and also to visit the ongoing Singapore Airshow.
He said that the ongoing ''modernisation drive'' was designed to enhance IAF's ''capabilities in strategic reach, persistence, deterrence, punishment when required, and assistance for peace-time operations.''
Talking about force depletion, ACM Major said: ''We want to be a 45 combat-squadron force by the end of the 12th Plan . We are presently supposed to be thirty-nine-and-a-half squadrons. But we are slightly less now, because of phase-outs.''
Earlier, talking to the media in New Delhi before his departure for Singapore, ACM Major had said that he would like to project India's air power from the Horn of Africa to the South China Sea. This force projection would be done ''not for any evil intentions, but as a power in this part of the world, as a competent force. India is growing economically. If you are an economic power, you also need to be a big military power in the region. It is a national policy or objective.''
Emphasising that ''air forces around the world respect the IAF for its professionalism,'' he said that the IAF accident rate had come down, raising safety to a level comparable with the best in the world.