Asserting that the Indian Air Force was making moves to ensure that there was no drop in the fighter aircraft strength of the country, the new Air
Chief S P Tyagi today said India was negotiating with a number of countries, including the US, for acquisition of 125 multi-role aircraft.
"The efforts are to keep IAF as a fairly potent fighting force in the region," Tyagi said in his first interaction with the media after taking over
the reins of office at the helm of the Air Force.
"We are looking at various vendors, including the US F-16 fighting falcon, Swedish Grippen, Russian Sukhois and the French Mirage 2000," Air Chief
Marshal Tyagi said, declaring that the gap created by the phasing out of older MIG-21s would be filled at the earliest.
At the interaction, he ruled out changes in the merit-based promotion policy and emphasised that force multipliers like the Air Early Warning and
Airborne Command System (AWACS) and light attack helicopters would be inducted into the force by 2007.
Simultaneously, he said, the work had been resumed on the development of India's indigenous Air Early Warning System (AEW), with the government
giving the go-ahead to the joint project between the DRDO and IAF.
Stating that nothing had been finalised about carrying out air exercises with Israel, the new Air Chief said the two countries were involved in joint
ventures along with other nations for the IAF's upgradation programme for the MiG-27 ground attack fighters and multi-role Jaguar aircraft. On moves
by the US to lift arms sanctions against Pakistan and supply Islamabad with more F-16 fighter planes, Tyagi said, "It is nothing much to be worried
about." "I don't think there will be any power balance change if the US goes ahead with the supply of the fighters. We have our own plans of
acquisitions in which all threat perceptions are accounted for," he said.
On futuristic Aerospace Command, Tyagi said IAF had always been interested in star wars concept and it is no secret. "Space is an arena where warfare
is heading towards and it is a natural progression that we get used to using this aerospace." Touching on the subject of IAF's flight safety record,
particularly the large number of crashes of the mainstay MiG-21 aircraft, the new Air Chief said though he had no magic wand to stop air accidents,
there were constant efforts being put in to improve flight safety and these included changing the pattern of pilot training, flight syllabus and
bringing in other measures for flying safety.
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