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SOURCE: THE HINDU

The Indian Air Force (IAF), which is facing a decline in its fighter squadrons, will have around 37-38 fighter squadrons in a decade, said the Deputy Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Sandeep Singh. He also said the 114-fighters deal under way has to meet the growing Make in India aspirations incorporated in the just-released Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020.

“We are already aware [of] what is supposed to come in the DAP 2020, and we have already realigned our Statement of Case to seek higher levels of production technology, and use of indigenous systems and materials where possible,” he said on the 114-fighters deal, addressing a webinar jointly organised by the Centre for Air Power Studies and the Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers.

The IAF is expected to soon approach the government for an accord on the Acceptance of Necessity for the 114-fighters deal, after which the formal procurement process would begin. The new DAP 2020 comes into effect from October 1.

On the fighter modernisation, Air Marshal Singh said that the rate at which the phasing out was taking place, the Mig-21s would “have to go”, but life of other fighters was being extended and made “more capable”. The IAF is in the process of phasing out the remaining squadrons of Mig-21s.

“We will hit around 37-38 squadrons in a decade,” Air Marshal Sandeep Singh said, adding that this was assuming there were no delays in the induction of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) variants. The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) induction is planned to begin by the end of the decade.

Stating that the fleet would be much more capable by then, he said, “Our adversaries are also getting technologically superior and [have] more number of aircraft.”

The IAF has an authorised strength of 42 fighter squadrons but currently has around 30 squadrons.

Mid-air refuellers
Air Marshal Singh said that “the financial crunch” had made the IAF rethink its acquisition plan for mid-air refuelling aircraft. “IAF has already received feedback that it would be possible to dry lease these platforms,” he said, stating this may be possible through Indian firms, which is allowed by the DAP 2020.

The lease need not be from the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and could be from aggregators of these platforms, which is permitted under the DAP 2020, he said. The IAF presently has six Russian IL-78 tankers and has been looking to procure six new aircraft, but the deal has been repeatedly delayed.

In another development, Air Marshal Singh said the IAF is the lead service for the tri-service case for 127 Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). Stating that the Air Force had to decide whether it was “Buy Indian” or “Buy and Make Indian” of the procurement procedure, he said the IAF already had some responses and would “rapidly decide on how to go about it”.

On the increasing threat of drones and various efforts by the services to procure counter-drone systems, Air Marshal Singh said that anti-drone systems should be under a national policy as that would be required by various agencies. “Discussion is on as to which systems will be handled by which agencies,” he added.