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IAF to meet fighter plane deficit by 2022
Published on 8 Oct. 2009 10:41 PM IST
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The Indian Air Force (IAF) plans to bridge its fighter squadron deficit by 2022, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik said Thursday as the force celebrated 77 years of its existence with an elaborate parade and aerobatics display here. “I would like to share one thing - we do not have a small air force. We are on the low side of the sine curve and we are only going to go up,” said Naik said on the sidelights of the Air Force Day parade. The IAF is set to acquire new fighter jets, helicopters, transport aircraft. The IAF is working towards increasing its strength to have a competitive edge in the region, he said. “The strength (of the fighter squadrons) has to increase. By 2014, it will start increasing. By 2022, we expect to have requisite numbers,” Naik told reporters here. The current strength of the IAF fighter squadrons is 33.5 well below the sanctioned strength of 39.5. By 2022, the IAF is expected to have 42 squadrons. He noted that the IAF of the future will increasingly be called upon to secure India’s strategic interests from the Straits of Hormuz to the Straits of Malacca and the Central Asian region. “Over the last year, our operational preparedness has remained at an all-time high. Numerous operational tasks, that stretched our resources, were successfully completed. Today, the prevailing situation is such that we have to maintain a certain level of constant readiness,” the IAF chief said. IAF to watch Naxal infested areas The IAF on Thursday said it will deploy its commando units to defend its helicopters and men on board in Naxal-infested areas, but made it clear that they would not carry out any “Rambo-style” operation against the Maoists. IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik told reporters here that the Garud special forces would be present in the helicopters flying in Maoist-hit areas for rescue operations and would defend their personnel and equipment by warding-off attacks by Naxals on them. “It is not a free for all like ‘Rambo’ that we will go and fire in the countryside. The helicopters operating for casualty evacuation will be mounted with guns and the Garud force will man them,” Naik said on the sidelines of the 77th Air Force Day parade here. Asked about the IAF request to the government to allow opening of fire in self-defence, he said the Cabinet Committee on Security will decide the matter. “I want to reiterate that I am totally against armed forces -- Army, Navy and Air Force -- being used in internal situations. We are meant to defend threats from across the border,” he said. Naik, however, said, “If the states requires any help we are always there to give it in terms of casualty evacuation and insertion (of security forces).” Referring to the killing of an IAF personnel in a Naxal attack on a helicopter during Chhattisgarh Assembly elections last year, Naik said this made the IAF request the defence ministry to permit it to open fire in self-defence. He said the request was to ensure that the IAF could protect its personnel and platforms and suppress the fire coming on to a helicopter. “We are not indulging in any armed aggression against any citizen of India. We would only like to undertake operations to protect our helicopters and men and women who fly these (air) hospitals,” he said. Stating that the helicopter’s commander should give permission to open fire in case of a decision by the CCS, Naik said, “There will be very stringent stipulations to help identify where the fire is coming from, and where to use minimum force to ensure minimum collateral damage.” He maintained that the Air Force was not deploying its armed helicopters or aircraft to bomb any area in Naxalite- affected regions.

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