‘All 75 PC-7 MK-II are ex­pected to be de­liv­ered by Au­gust 2015’

Air Mar­shal D.C. Ku­maria, the out­go­ing Vice Chief of the Air Staff, IAF, in con­ver­sa­tion with SP’S M.A.I., spoke about IAF’S mod­erni­sa­tion plans, new in­duc­tions, RFPS, joint ex­er­cises, etc. Ex­cerpts:

SP's MAI - - AEROSPACE -

SP’s M.A.I. (SP’s): How do you view your ten­ure as the Vice Chief of In­dian Air Force (IAF)? Vice Chief of the Air Staff (VCAS): My ten­ure as the Vice Chief of the In­dian Air Force has been ex­cep­tion­ally en­rich­ing. I look back with a sense of achieve­ment and pride. The IAF is con­fi­dently mov­ing on the path to­wards ac­quir­ing cut­ting-edge tech­nolo­gies and the progress in op­er­a­tional­i­sa­tion has been good. Our mod­erni­sa­tion plan is a con­tin­u­ous process with new in­duc­tions and up­grades of the legacy plat­forms. As far as aero­space safety is con­cerned, the last year had the low­est rate of ac­ci­dents than ever be­fore.

The IAF con­ducted two ma­jor ex­er­cises within the last year viz. Ex­er­cise Iron Fist and Ex­er­cise Livewire. The first was a demon­stra­tion of the cur­rent po­ten­tial of the IAF and dis­played all the roles that are en­vis­aged for it. The re­cently in­ducted C-130J demon­strated its ca­pa­bil­i­ties dur­ing the fire­power demon­stra­tion. The in­dige­nous pack­age, com­pris­ing the light com­bat air­craft (LCA)-Te­jas, the ad­vanced light he­li­copter (ALH)-Dhruv and the light com­bat he­li­copter pro­to­type put up spirit dis­plays, show­ing good po­ten­tial ca­pac­ity. Over the past year, we have con­sol­i­dated our strate­gic reach by in­duct­ing new squadrons of Su-30MKI. We are work­ing on joint­man­ship with the sis­ter ser­vices and re­fine­ment of doc­trines. SP’s: Will de­lay in the process of pro­cure­ment of the medium multi-role com­bat air­craft (MMRCA) have a neg­a­tive im­pact? VCAS: The pro­cure­ment of MMRCA is an im­por­tant in­duc­tion that mer­its the high­est pri­or­ity. The scheme is cur­rently at the stage of con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tion with the ven­dors and all ef­forts are be­ing made to en­sure its timely in­duc­tion. The scope of the MMRCA con­tract is vast and com­plex with li­cence man­u­fac­ture of 108 pro­file with the Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Limited (HAL) as the ‘lead pro­duc­tion agency’ and many other In­dian pro­duc­tion agen­cies. The con­tract needs to cap­ture the work share ar­range­ments be­tween the orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­turer (OEM) and In­dian pro­duc­tion agency (IPA). MMRCA pro­ject in­cludes 50 per cent off­sets. The L1 ven­dor was iden­ti­fied in Jan­uary 2011 af­ter a long and ex­haus­tive se­lec­tion process as per the DPP. The con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions ac­tu­ally started only in Fe­bru­ary, 2012. It is ex­pected that the con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions will be con­cluded in the next few months paving the way for ob­tain­ing the Cabi­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity (CCS) ap­proval prior to the sign­ing of the con­tract. The con­tract is ex­pected to be signed in the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year 201314. IAF’s com­bat fleet strength to­day stands at 34 squadrons. With this strength, we have the req­ui­site com­bat po­ten­tial to han­dle our fu­ture se­cu­rity con­tin­gen­cies. Cur­rently, we are op­er­at­ing a mix of sta­teof-the-art air­craft like the Su-30 as well as some legacy sys­tems. We have also em­barked upon a ma­jor upgra­da­tion plan for in­creas­ing the com­bat rel­e­vance of our other fleets like Jaguar, MiG-21/27/29 and M-2000. We have ad­e­quate com­bat ca­pa­bil­ity. The LCA would start join­ing IAF in the Twelfth Five Year Plan pe­riod and the fifth gen­er­a­tion fighter air­craft sub­se­quently there­after. SP’s: When do you fore­see the fi­nal­i­sa­tion of Jaguar up­grade? VCAS: Avion­ics up­grade of Jaguar air­craft to DARIN-III stan­dards is be­ing un­der­taken by HAL. The first flight of the D&D air­craft was achieved on Novem­ber 28, 2012, and the se­ries mod­i­fi­ca­tion is ex­pected to be com­pleted by 2017. The up­grade will in­cor­po­rate new sys­tems in­clud­ing a mis­sion com­puter, multi-mode radar, elec­tronic war­fare (EW) suite and an au­topi­lot. The re-en­gin­ing of the Jaguar air­craft with F-125 IN engine from Honey­well is also be­ing un­der­taken in or­der to over­come the lim­i­ta­tions of the ex­ist­ing en­gines. SP’s: How many ba­sic train­ers we are likely to get from Pi­la­tus? VCAS: De­liv­er­ies of PC-7 Mk-II are in progress and all 75 air­craft are ex­pected to be de­liv­ered by Au­gust 2015. Un­der the ‘Op­tion Clause’ of the main con­tract, Air Head­quar­ters has ini­ti­ated a case to pro­cure ad­di­tional 38 air­craft. SP’s: What kind of re­sponse do you fore­see from pri­vate sec­tor in the con­text of Avro re­place­ment? VCAS: The IAF is pro­cess­ing a case to pro­cure 56 air­craft through “Buy and Make” route with 16 air­craft in fly­away con­di­tion from the OEM and 40 air­craft through trans­fer of tech­nol­ogy (ToT) by an In­dian Pro­duc­tion Agency (IPA) from pri­vate in­dus­try sec­tor. The IPA is pro­posed to be se­lected by the OEM. The RFP was is­sued on May 8, 2013. The pri­vate in­dus­try is a mar­ginal player in the aero­space sec­tor to­day. Con­sid­er­ing the grow­ing needs of the armed forces and avi­a­tion sec­tor in gen­eral, it is im­per­a­tive that a boost be given to the pri­vate in­dus­try to in­crease their par­tic­i­pa­tion thus en­hanc­ing their con­tri­bu­tion. SP’s: Which all joint ex­er­cises are likely to come up? VCAS:: The joint ex­er­cises that are likely to be con­ducted in­clude: Ex Eastern Bridge III (Oc­to­ber 6-13, 2013) - Indo-Oman Joint Ex­er­cise to be held in Oman; Ex In­dra-Dhanush-IV (2014) - Indo-UK ex­er­cise, to be held in UK; Ex Garuda-V (2014) - Indo-France Ex­er­cise to be held in In­dia. The Indo-US Red Flag ex­er­cise has been called off by the United States Govern­ment.

For the com­plete in­ter­view, log on to www.sp­savi­a­tion.net

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