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India ready with its spies in the sky

Highlighting the changes in surveillance methods, Air Chief Tyagi says India is now equipt to tap satellites for spying.

india Updated: May 01, 2006 15:50 IST

Highlighting the changing nature of surveillance, Air Chief SP Tyagi said on Monday that India was now fully equipped to tap satellites for keeping a strategic eye on the ground.

"The nature of warfare is changing with satellites taking over the act of spying," Tyagi said as he, along with top IAF brass, bid adieu to India's secret strategic weapon platform for decades.

"MIG-25 no longer have strategic use to India. Also, the planes are no longer cost-effective," Tyagi said.

The Air Force Chief added that the spy-plane had completed its lifespan and that India now has INSAT 2B satellite for the purpose.

"The IAF is planning to buy C-130 J planes for its special force," he added.

The MIG-25 planes will be rested at IAF museum at Palam, the Air Force academies and stations at Bareilly, Jodhpur and Kalaikunda.

The last ceremonial flight of MIG-25 'Garuda' was on Monday flown by Wing Commander Sanjeev Taliyan.

From the time of its induction in 1981, only 42 pilots under the 35-Squadron and 102 Squadrons have had the chance to fly the spy-plane.

"It's a feeling of detachment when you reach the satellite height in the plane," said Wing Commander A Chauhan, who has clocked 250 hours on the MIG 25. He added that he has developed an emotional bond with the plane.

"With the phasing out of the MIG-25 foxbats, a legendary flying era has passed over in the IAF," said a veteran pilot, as the reconissance fighter, almost of the size of Antonov 32, made its last touch down at this airbase.

"It was a terrific plane... Neither an aircraft nor a missile could chase," said Air Vice Marshal Sumit Mukurjhee.

IAF had, in early 1981, acquired six reconnaissance and two trainer versions of the MIG-25s, of which only four were left at the time of phasing out.

The satellite capability spy planes had as grand an induction as their phase out in the presence of top IAF brass.

Two aircraft were landed at Bareilly by the then world's biggest transport aircraft AN 124 and one of the two crashed soon after take off. It was replaced at no cost.

IAF's decision to decommission the MIG-25 who inspired awe among western nations after it was unveiled by the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1967 with a world record speed of 2982 kmph, was taken four years ago as the Air Force faced immense difficulty in obtaining spares.

"The spy plane was employed even during the Kargil crisis," a senior IAF officer said.

MIG-25's record in speed and height was only once beaten by the US Blackbird SR-71, which is a generation ahead of it, but on August 31,1977, a MIG-25 with an upgraded engine reached a height of 37,625 kms and that record of the Foxbat still remains.