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IAF may phase out Canberra jets by 2007

Canberra Bombers -- the pride of the Indian Air Force -- could see an early phase-out, according to an IAF official.
None | By Press Trust of India, Pune
UPDATED ON MAR 31, 2006 06:46 PM IST

Canberra Bombers, the pride of the Indian Air Force and which has a distinct record of having taken part in all the three wars of the country has fought since their induction 50 years ago, could see an early phase-out.

"Canberra Bombers have done their job. At the most, they would serve one more year in the IAF. The plan was to phase them out in 2009. However, now they could be phased out earlier, may be by 2007," Air Marshal P Mehra, Air-Officer-Commanding in Chief, South Western Air Command, told reporters in Pune on Friday.

He said this at an informal chat at the Golden Jubilee Union of veteran Canberra pilots organised by the city-based Canberra Bomber Old Boys Association.

Asked if they could be continued in the IAF any longer, he said, "It all depends on the HAL. There is no problem with the aircraft as such; it is a wonderful machine. But maintenance of Canberra aircraft is not easy."

At present, the IAF has one squadron of Canberra Bombers stationed at Agra base.

On Pune International Airport, which is also base of Sukhoi 30 and is under the operational control of the IAF, being closed from 8 am to 5 pm for maintenance of runway on Saturdays, he said, "With the airport becoming international, the runway was taking a beating with so many heavy planes landing and taking off more frequently."

He said, "The runway at the airport was last resurfaced some 15 years ago. It badly needs to be resurfaced but at a faster pace to avoid inconvenience to people". "The airfield is for all (civil operators). The exclusivity of the airport to the IAF is no more desirable," he said.

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