By Sangeeta Saxena

New Delhi. 04 October 2019. Four days after taking over as the Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force, Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria accepted at the annual press conference that it was a “big mistake” and the IAF had shot down its helicopter in Kashmir on February 27. The Mi-17 shot down post Balakot was was shot by India’s own missile. He informed that the Court of Inquiry is over and action is to be taken on two officers.

He continued to giving a positive news that Rafale will start coming from May 2020. Four of these much awaited French fighters will fly in the Indian skies fully equipped.

The IAF remains committed to the indigenous development in consonance with ‘Make in India he reiterated. “In the last year we continued to induct and promote indigenous development of aircraft, radars, missiles and other aviation equipment to achieve self-reliance and reduce dependency on foreign manufactures. A few amongst these are the Light Combat Aircraft, additional Akash Missile System squadrons, Advanced Light Helicopter MK-IV, Light Combat Helicopter, Arudhra (Medium Power Radar), Ashwini (Low Level Transportable Radar), ASTRA and BRAHMOS missiles,” he said.

The IAF has already received 16 IOC LCA. FOC for LCA has been granted in February this year and the delivery of FOC aircraft will also be commencing soon. “We have inducted and operationalised the Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft. The induction of ALH, Akash SAGW, IACCS and AD Radars are some of the other success stories of our indigenisation effort,” CAS said.

He emphasised that with its latest inductions the IAF is further bolstering its strength. The acquisition of the Rafale aircraft and the S-400 missile system will greatly enhance the Airforce’s operational capability. “Notwithstanding the pace of acquisitions, modernisation and the indigenisation efforts which is an ongoing process, the IAF is prepared to fight at short notice in full synergy with the other two sister services. IAF as a service has evolved considerably over the years with the capability of sustaining operational readiness for a prolonged period,” the Air Chief exhorted.

AMCA is to be IAF’s fifth generation fighter. The Chief stated that India had no plans for imports right now and would be looking at the indigenous advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA) to meet that requirement. AMCA is currently in “detail design phase” and is expected to be completed by 2021. It is to be built under the strategic partnership model which means that it will be not less than a decade till India can get a full squadron.The prototype will fly only by 2025. But it is celebration time for HAL. It may be recalled that Russia has been keen to sell its 5th Generation stealth fighter Sukhoi Su-57E to India.

And on the procurement of 114 aircraft under the MMRCA category the Chief said that IAF has started the process of getting the Acceptance of Necessity (AON) from the Defence Ministry after finalising the Air Staff Quality Requirements (ASQR) for the MMRCA programme.

And the indigenisation mantra did not end here. The IAF Chief stressed that 83 Light Combat Aircraft Tejas Mark 1 will come to the IAF first and post these all LCA Mark 2 will be added the force. He also informed that the CNC for Tejas is still not complete and the price would go up as compared to the last batch.

He also broke the news that the 38 Pilatus which were being planned to procure will now not come as the plan has been dropped and HTT40 will be the trainers inducted into the force. The Hindustan Turboprop Trainer (HTT 40) aircraft programme just a couple of days ago completed a landmark test when it successfully completed the 6 turn left spin capability.