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Indian Airforce Chief Concerned By Fighter Delays

Indian top-gun pilots are slowly but surely running out of combat-worthy fighters to fly. Faced with the twin-threat from China and Pakistan, the IAF has once again sounded the red-alert over the huge delays dogging all its three fighter induction projects.

Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha on Saturday said the delays in the MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project, the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft program and the joint development of the futuristic stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) with Russia, should be a major concern for the entire country.

“Every project, be it acquisition or design and development, is taking longer than it should. We have lost timelines. We have quite a few fleets which are on their last legs. It’s definitely a concern,” said ACM Raha, ahead of the IAF’s 82nd anniversary on October 8.

Down to just 34 fighter squadrons, which includes 14 of ageing and virtually obsolete MiG-21s and MiG-27s, IAF is obviously worried about its fast-depleting air combat power when both China and Pakistan continue to flex their muscles along the borders. It requires at least 44 squadrons to be at ease against both.

Responding to the military standoff with China in Chumar and Demchok sectors of eastern Ladakh last month, which coincided with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India, the IAF chief said it was “mysterious” how such border incursions took place during high-profile visits.

“In diplomacy, some signaling is done. I am not going to guess why it was done. But we are not giving ground to anyone,” said ACM Raha, who is also the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee. He admitted it would take four to five years to plug all operational and infrastructure gaps in Ladakh and the north-east.

The new Modi government is showing “great urgency” in “expediting” processes and projects. With all the three Service chiefs meeting the PM on a one-on-one basis every month, every project is being reviewed and accountability being fixed, he said.

But it will take a lot of doing. The indigenous Tejas fighter, in the making for over 30 years now, for instance is still far from becoming fully combat-ready. Tejas also cannot replace the need for a MMRCA since the light-weight fighter has a shorter-range and less weapon-load carrying capability. It will not, for instance, be capable of deep-penetration attacks into China.

Similarly, the final commercial negotiations for the almost $20 billion MMRCA project — the global tender for which was floated in August 2007 – for 126 French Rafale fighters have proceeded at a glacial pace.

Though the work of three sub-committees dealing with technical maintenance, offsets and transfer of technology has been completed, sources said Dassault Aviation is still reluctant to take responsibility, with warranty and liquidity damages, for the 108 Rafale jets to be made in India by Hindustan Aeronautics.

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Afghans ‘concerned’ over airforce as NATO pulls out

By on Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Afghanistan’s defence ministry has expressed concern over the slow pace of developing its airforce ahead of a scheduled withdrawal of NATO troops and equipment, the government said Sunday.

More than a dozen transport aircraft provided to the Afghan airforce by the United States have been grounded because of age, a lack of spares and safety problems, President Hamid Karzai’s office said in a statement.

The issue was raised at a security meeting which was told that the defence ministry was “concerned over the slow pace of reviving the country’s air force” and wanted the US to “intensify its efforts for that end”.

As part of its exit strategy from the Afghan war, the US is helping Kabul build its airforce before most air support from NATO forces is withdrawn along with 130,000 troops by the end of 2014.

Fifteen C-27 transport aircraft supposed to provide support to the Afghan army and deliver humanitarian aid had been grounded for two years, defence ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi told AFP.

“The planes were made in Italy, they are old and were out of the Italian fleet before they were given to Afghanistan,” Azimi said.

Air transport is critical in Afghanistan, where the road network is underdeveloped and targeted by insurgent bombings, while strike aircraft are a vital part of the war against Taliban insurgents.

The US Air Force announced last month that it was reopening a contest for a contract to build 20 light attack aircraft for Afghanistan after the cancellation of an award to Brazil’s Embraer two months earlier.

But a final decision for the contract will not be made before early 2013, the Air Force said in a statement, with the first planes due to be delivered in the second half of 2014.

The new schedule will mean “a delay of about 15 months” from original plans, before the Air Force called off the award, the statement said.

Last year, an Afghan air force officer shot dead nine US service members at a training centre at Kabul International Airport, one of the deadliest attacks on coalition troops in recent years.

It was one of an increasing number of attacks in which Afghans being trained by NATO troops have turned their weapons on their mentors.

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