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IAF’s equipment obsolete: Air chief (Lead)

October 5, 2010

The Indian Air Force (IAF), the world’s fourth largest that turns 78 Friday, is grappling with a shortage of officers and 50 percent of its equipment is obsolete, a top military commander said Monday.

But on the positive note, the IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, said steps were afoot to bring down the obsolescence levels to 20 percent in the next five years, while the attrition rate of pilots had witnessed a downturn in the past few years.

“The obsolescence is at 50 percent,” Naik told reporters here.

He said the IAF that will be procuring more advanced fighter planes in the coming years and “by 2014-15, the obsolescence will come down to 20 percent”.

Naik said that “air defence” was “the most critical” area of concern. “That will be the only word,” he replied when asked which was the most critical area for the force.

But he said that IAF was confident and capable of handling threats from the air and from space. “We are fully capable of defending the country from any threat.”

The IAF’s modernisation process includes induction of medium multi-role combat aircraft, fifth generation fighters, tactical-lift transport aircraft, modern attack helicopters, heavy-lift and multi-role medium-lift helicopters, seamless communication, strategic airlift capability and integration of sensors towards capability-based operations by moving away from the hitherto threat-based preparation.

Induction of AWACS and aerial refuellers has increased the range and reach of the IAF. It has already ordered over six squadrons of the indigenously-made Akash air defence systems and the Spyder medium-range surface-to-air missile systems from Israel along with aerostat radars to prevent any aerial attacks.

The IAF is expected to induct the C-130J Super Hercules airlifter in February 2011 and the indegenous light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas by May of the same year.

With upgrades of Jaguars, Mirage-2000s and An-32s ongoing, planned acquisitions to replace the ageing Avro aircraft and the induction of the Saras and medium transport aircraft in the 11th and 12th Plan makes the horizon ahead distinctly reassuring for the Indian air warriors.

The force is also struggling with the shortage of fighter pilots, which Naik said “is between 550 and 600″.

“But the attrition rate has been positive for some time now,” he said, meaning that fewer pilots were leaving the force.

Naik said the economic downturn and the aspirations of the people that had gone down were the reasons for more people turning towards the IAF for jobs.

The IAF, he said, also suffers from a shortage of some 5,000 personnel below officer rank (PBOR). “But we are looking to have nearly 30,000 PBORs by 2022,” he added.

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