M A I N   N E W S

India plans $100 b facelift for air defence
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 18
The Indian government has embarked upon an ambitious upgrade programme for the Indian Air Force at the cost of $100 billion spread over the next decade.

The upgrade programme will further the Indian defence establishment’s doctrine of a short, swift, high intensity war which will see coordinated action by the Army, Navy, Air Force and special forces, including crack commandos and assault and destroy troops.

The government kicked off the process last year when it invited expressions of interest from international manufacturers to supply 126 fighter aircraft. As per the information available at the Defense Expo being held in the capital, the government seems to have accelerated the process of upgrading the country’s airbases as well.

The defence ministry has issued a request for bids to upgrade 30 military airports across the country at a cost of $1.5 billion. Those bidding for the orders include Thales from France, Lockheed Martin, Siemen’s, Celex from Italy, Terma of the UK and Indian companies like the Tatas.

All border airfields and those providing back-up services have been scheduled for upgrades. These include Adampur, AFA, Agra, Ambala, Bagdogra, Bareilly, Bhatinda, Bhuj, Bidar, Chabua, Chandigarh, Gorakhpur, Gwalior, Halwara, Hasimara, Hindon, Jaisalmer, Jamnagar, Jodhpur, Jorhat, KKD, Nal, Naliya, Pathankot, Pune, Sirsa, Suratgarh, Tezpur, Uttarlai and Yelahanka.

The upgrades will take care of new lighting, automated air traffic control management system, instrument landing system, distance measuring equipment and a doppler very-high-frequency omni-range navigation system. The facilities will also be equipped with six mobile airfield lighting systems and mobile air traffic control system that will serve as back-ups.

Air Chief Marshal Homi Major has been quoted by India Strategic magazine as saying that the programme would be spread over the next 10 years. The upgrade programme would cover aircraft to airbases with precision approach and surveillance radars and these changes would be visible by 2015. “The emphasis will be on all-weather, round-the-clock operational capability,” the IAF chief has been quoted as saying.

The run up to the Defense Expo has already seen the IAF begin the shopping process. Apart from the 126 fighter aircraft, the IAF has placed a global Request for Proposals (RFP) for 24 state-of-the-art attack helicopters and 12 heavy lift helicopters.

The IAF’s current fleet presently comprises Soviet-era aircraft.

Among those who have already made pitches to defence ministry officials include Boeing, which is offering its latest version of Apache AH 64 Block III attack helicopters. The company has offered to sell these helicopters to India by 2011 when they are introduced in the US air force as well.



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