‘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 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.
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