Friday, October 2, 2009

IAF strength no match to China’s: Air chief

IAF chief Air Chief Marshal PV Naik today said the strength of the country's Air Force was inadequate and just one-third the size of China's and therefore the government was going in for more acquisitions to enhance its capability. Naik also downplayed reports of Chinese air incursions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). “As far as Air Force is concerned, there are no incursions anywhere (across Indian border),” he said.

“Our present aircraft strength is inadequate. We have one-third of the Chinese numbers. And that is why we are going for more,” Naik said, echoing the just retired naval chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta's concern that the country neither has the capability nor the intention to match China force for force.

“The government of India is doing a lot to augment the Air Force capability,” Naik told reporters at the South Western Air Command (SWAC) headquarters here.

The Air chief's comments come against the backdrop of media reports about Chinese air "incursions" into India in the past several weeks.

“We are not downplaying the challenges before us. But there is a strategy to handle it. One can either deal with it sternly or play cool and continue to develop capabilities,” Naik said.

Naik further said "the government is giving full support as far as the acquisition of these things are concerned in terms of finance or otherwise”.

“But everything takes time. So, whatever contracts that have been signed or will be signed, we would get delivery after three years,” he said, adding that they were aware of the situation and were keen on increasing aircraft numbers.

Fighter aircraft are required for national security, initially at the borders, and also to guard the entire nation, Naik said.

When asked about deployment or arrangement along the India-China border, he said: “We have increased our capabilities on land as well as in air." However, he declined to divulge more information.

On security arrangements at various borders, the Air Chief Marshal said, “We are using advance technology in border areas like cameras, motion detectors and maintaining air surveillance. We also use satellite surveillance." He also said the country was faced by many challenges which were increasing day by day.

“So far the effect of all these challenges on Indian Air Force is that we have to be prepared for all kind of conflicts, starting from the top that is nuclear to the terrorist which is a lower spectrum conflict,” he said.

“We have to acquire capabilities in order to meet the nation’s aspirations,” he added.

Naik said that all the challenges be they geo-political or within the country were equally important. “Depending on the priority, all these challenges are being handled by developing capabilities not only of armed forces but also by looking into diplomatic and economic factors which form part of national security,” he said.

Asked what kind of aircraft the Air Force would be purchasing to strengthen its capacity, Naik said Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMCA) are in the offing, while the second phase of trial for the F-18s and F-16 aircraft have been completed.

“We will also have Rafael fighter plane and C-130 Hercules. We already have one AWACS and would get two more next year,” Naik said, adding that global inquiries have also been floated for heavy transport aircraft.

Also in the offing are fifth generation fighter aircraft and medium transport aircraft for which there has been an agreement between the Indian and Russian government, he added.


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