Unveiling ambitious expansion plans, the Indian Air Force (IAF) said on Friday it will complete 75% of its modernisation in another decade and raise four more squadrons of Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighters in the near future.
Seventy-five% of the IAF will be highly modernised by 2022, the IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, told reporters in New Delhi at the customary press conference ahead of the Oct8 Air Force Day parade. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the IAF.
He said the acquisition process of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) was on track and would be finalised by the March 31, 2013 end of the current fiscal.
Browne said said 270 Su-30 aircraft would be acquired for 13 to 14 squadrons to be eventually raised.
Code-named Flying Lancers, the process to set up a new 15 Squadron in Punjab would be started in December and become operational by the middle of next year, he said.
"By the end of this year, in December and early next year, we will be inducting a new Su-30 squadron, based in Punjab. That will be the 10th squadron of Su-30s and the process will continue for at least six months - from January to June," Browne said.
He said the IAF would deploy more Sukhoi squadrons in the eastern and southern sectors.
"We are raising three to four more squadrons of Sukhoi. Two extra squadrons are being raised in the eastern sector. So far, we have raised two squadrons there and two more are in the process," he said.
"One more squadron will be based in Punjab and one will be in Thanjavur. Therefore, we will eventually have 13 to 14 squadrons of Sukhois," he said.
Browne also unveiled plans to upgrade the combat infrastructure in the northeastern region by deploying more aircraft for logistics, transport and special operations support.
"Once the MMRCA gets inducted, the first base is planned is at Ambala. The first two bases will be in the Western Air Command and the other two will be in the Eastern Air Command."
Asked about the future of the light combat aircraft (LCA), Browne said the Mark-II version was still four to five years away.
"The air force has looked at 40 of the LCA Mark-I variant on the condition that Mark-II will have a more powerful engine. A contract has been signed between DRDO and GE for this. That programme is still four to five years away," he said.
The IAF is also planning to induct additional C-130J transport aircraft, which will be based at Panagarh.
"These aircraft (C-130J) will be based at Panagarh in Eastern Air Command, close to Kalaikunda and Kolkata. These will be utilised for the entire northeastern region and cover Car Nicobar Island," Browne said.
He said that with the acquisition of MI-17 V5 helicopters, the IAF would have day and night surveillance capabilities.
He said four units of the helicopter had already been made operational and two more would join the force in December.
Browne said a contract for 59 additional helicopters would also be signed in the next few months.
Browne said that the IAF had urged the government to ensure that states hit by Maoist violence bolster their infrastructure to ensure safety and security of IAF helicopters and men deployed in anti-Maoist operations.