In an interview with India
Strategic and at other forums, Air
Chief Marshal NAK Browne said that the first lot
of 18 Rafale Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft
(MMRCAs) are to be delivered in the 3rd or 4th
year after the contract is signed with Dassault
International, and the remaining 108 between 4th
and 11th year.
He said he was expecting the contract to be
signed within this year, but the sudden death
of Mr Arun Kumar Bal, Joint Secretary (Air), on
October 2 (due to a heart attack), will have implications
for MMRCA as well as other air force acquisitions,
A Joint Secretary is a key player in various
Indian ministries, and all decisions pivot around
this assignment. A new officer is yet to be appointed
and even when that is done, he would take a couple
of months to study the files and take decisions.
By then, next parliamentary elections are likely
to be announced, and after that, no deals can
be done by law till the next elected government
The Air Chief observed that the number of IAF
squadrons was set to deplete due to the phasing
out of old Mig 21s and Mig 27s while some other
aircraft in its inventory required immediate upgradation.
However the Mig 21-bis could be used till 2025,
instead of its envisaged phasing out plan for
The key always is to Preserve, Upgrade
and Acquire. All these components are part
of the Long Term Integrated Procurement Plan (LTIPP)
of the IAF and would be progressed as per the
envisaged time lines. I am pleased that
this process has been progressing well and we
are already witnessing early results with a comprehensive
enhancement of our capabilities.
Nonetheless, although the political leadership
could take a positive decision on IAFs MMRCA
project within the next two months, it doesnt
seem likely given the countrys political
environment as also the fact that HAL, which is
the official partner in the licence manufacturing
of Rafale in India, has not yet finalised its
discussions with the French manufacturer so far.
But Air Chief Marshal Browne emphasised that
thanks to the implementation of several programmes,
we are already witnessing early results
with a comprehensive enhancement of our capabilities.
He was hopeful, he said, of at least a couple
of deals being signed within the next few weeks,
particularly involving Boeings Chinook and
Apache helicopters and Airbus Militarys
six A 330 MRTT Flight Refueller Aircraft. There
was progress also with Russia on helicopters.
The Air Force is determined to progress the
Long Term Integrated Procurement Plan (LTIPP),
as simply put, there is no other choice. The focus
on Rafale as IAFs lead swing role fighter
and overall 24 x 7 day and night capability has
The Air Chief observed that India required a
strong defence industrial base with high-end skill
workers for only then could the IAF, Army, Navy
and other forces could have sustained supplies
of quality equipment and side benefits for the
economy. At the moment, this is not so, and if
IAF itself can do a job for `200 or 300 an hour,
a public sector unit would take five to seven
Air Chief Marshal Browne stressed the importance
of Electronic Warfare and pointed out that it
was now a key element in training of IAF personnel.
Realizing the need to impart high quality
training and adapt to technology driven war-fighting,
we have accorded the highest priority to exposing
our air crew to latest trends in Electronic Warfare.
EW training forms an important part at all levels
of IAFs operational training. The ground
training syllabi include EW aspects from the ab-initio
stage onwards while the aircrew are trained on
all practical offensive and defensive aspects
of EW in the squadrons. System specific capabilities
and tactical application of EW are an intrinsic
part of annual training schedules.
Induction of force multipliers, he said, had
added a tremendous fillip to IAFs capabilities
for sustaining high tempo operations and had afforded
greater battlefield transparency. IAF is already
operating three AWACS and the case for procurement
of two IL-76 based AWACS from M/s ELTA System
Ltd of Israel is at an advanced stage.
In addition, Defence research and Development
Organisation (DRDO) is undertaking indigenous
development of two AWACS which is at Design and
Development (D&D) stage. The case for procurement
of four additional Aerostats is at CNC stage.
As far as mid-air refuellers are concerned, IAF
is currently operating six IL-78 based FRAs. M/s
EADS, Spain, with Airbus-330 MRTT has emerged
as the L-1 vendor for the procurement of six additional
FRAs and the contract for the same is being progressed.
To a question from India
Strategic on IAFs vision for
the next 20 to 50 years, he said that it has to
be about a multi-spectrum force.
The application of aerospace power would prove
decisive in winning the short and intense wars
of the future. Unmanned aircraft and unmanned
combat aircraft would be needed but there would
always be a decisive role for man in the aircraft
to win a battle.
About the upgrades, he said that as of now,
the Mirage 2000, MiG-29 and Jaguar fleet upgrade
plans are progressing well and are in various
stages of implementation. The mission system upgrade
of these fleets includes long range multi-function
radars, glass cockpits, highly advanced man machine
interfaces, new mission computers, state-of-the-art
Electronic Warfare systems, Air-to-Air as well
as Air-to-Surface munitions with enhanced range
and performance. There is a focus on Smart weapons.
Additionally, the Jaguar aircraft is planned
to be re-equipped with Honeywell F-125 engine
to overcome issues of thrust and reliability of
the existing power plant. Our main aim is to focus
on sustaining a high combat potential and build
adequate force levels with a potent mix of platform
and weapon systems.
Situational Awareness, Reach and Precision are
the main elements in IAFs dictionary, Air
Chief Marshal Browne said.
Our new transport aircraft, both Boeing
C-17 Globemaster III and Lockheed Martin C-130J
are doing well and have got integrated in the
IAFs over all system, he added.
- Part 2 in November issue.