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India no longer in 1962 syndrome: IAF chief

- On farewell visit to Eastern Air Command, Browne says defence forces prepared for challenges on all fronts

Shillong, Dec. 12: Outgoing air force chief N.A.K. Browne today said India should be able to broadly meet the challenges of perceived air threats from neighbouring countries.

Air Chief Marshal Browne was on a two-day farewell visit to the Eastern Air Command headquarters, Upper Shillong, here and attended the EAC commanders’ conference.

Before bidding adieu to the staff, the air chief briefly interacted with reporters at the advanced landing ground here after which he was given a guard of honour by air force personnel.

A new IAF chief is likely to take charge in January next year.

“We certainly take note of each and every thing that is happening in our neighbourhood. Development is not targeted against one single country. The Indian Air Force is prepared to take up any challenge and we do not compare with others,” Air Chief Marshal Browne said.

On threats from neighbouring countries, especially China’s territorial claims on areas in the Himalayan region including Arunachal Pradesh, he said: “When we prepare ourselves, we do not look at any specific country. We want to look at the defence of the country and the air force specifically across broad parameters.”

He stated that India is no longer in the 1962 (Sino-Indian war) syndrome because “a lot of time has passed since then”.

Stating that every country has the right to defend itself, the Air Chief Marshal said: “Our planning is based on certain capabilities. So does China and so do we. But our development is not just targeted within the country. We should be able to broadly meet the challenges in future.”

While considering the Northeast an important sector, the air chief highlighted plans to further improve air defence in the region, as Arunachal Pradesh alone shares a 1,030-km unfenced border with China. “Our air defence is constantly in a stage of improvement and this does take time. We have planned mountain radars for hilly areas and hilly terrain. It is not just one particular radar but a series in a system,” he said.

He said the IAF had also planned to acquire one more squadron of Sukhoi Su-30 combat jets at Tezpur in Assam next year. Talking about the future of the air force in terms of the MiG-21 FL fighter jets being replaced by the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft, a fourth-generation fighter aircraft, the outgoing air chief said the IAF would get 40 aircraft of mark-I type and by next year, final operation clearance is expected to be completed.

After obtaining the clearance for Tejas, work on Tejas mark-II will start. “Our work has already started to develop mark-II with better engine (GE-engine). The aircraft will be developed from the basic mark-I and it will have far better improvement in terms of radar, more fuel and more powerful engine. That will actually be the future for the air force in terms of the replacement for MiG-21 FL,” Air Chief Marshal Browne said.

On the phasing out of MiG-21 FL yesterday after decades of service, he described the event a watershed moment. “This was the aircraft which had trained all our fighter pilots, including myself. It has trained the generation of pilots who handled the combat fleet of the air force. It has done its job well. It has served the country well and the function at Kalaikunda was the memorable event for the air force. One major phase has passed away and now we look forward to the new induction in the air force,” he added.

On the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) competition to supply 126 MMRCA to the IAF by France’s Dassault Rafale, the air chief said negotiations were on.

The defence ministry has allocated funds for the purchase of these aircraft, making it India’s single largest defence deal.

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