New Delhi, Oct. 4: Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief- Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne has told media on Tuesday that we are gradually building powerful military capabilities in tune with its expanding geopolitical interests, which are no longer limited to the swathe stretching from the Persian Gulf to Malacca Strait, even as the eastern and western fronts are being strengthened to deter the twin Pakistan-China threat.
Air Chief Marshal Browne also informed that India's ambitious project to develop indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) has suffered a setback as the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) for the aircraft was delayed by another year.
He said, "we were expecting to get the IOC (final) by the end of this year. As we see it, there is a delay of almost a year in that. Now we are expecting Final Operational Clearance (FOC) by 2012."
The IAF chief also emphasized that "we are now transforming IAF as true aerospace power with the capability to rapidly deploy and operate around the globe".
"No other air force in the world has been attempted to modernize at such a fast pace in such a short span of 15 years as we have done. The IAF must have resources to meet the requirements wherever India's strategic interests lie," he added.
Browne also added that as for the two-front challenge, apart from progressively basing Sukhoi-30MKI fighters and missile squadrons in the two theatres, the plan also includes upgrading the Nyoma advanced landing ground in eastern Ladakh, located 23 km from the LAC with China at an altitude of 13,300 feet. We want a 12,000-feet runway capable of handling fighters as well as transport aircraft at Nyoma, it will give us both defensive and offensive options.
Browne further added that after being cleared by the defence ministry, it's now going to the Cabinet Committee on Security.
The IAF has been building his perspective plans till 2027, IAF is looking at a combat fleet of 250-300 fifth-generation fighter aircraft, 126-200 medium multi-role fighter aircraft and 270 Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, as also over 100 upgraded MiG-29s and Mirage-2000s.
The estimated price tag for just these jets comes to over $70 billion.
Browne told that the IAF fighter squadrons will go up to 42 (from the existing 34) by end of the 13th Plan or 2022. He also added that there are also different types of transport aircraft and helicopters, radars and missile systems, drones and mid-air refuellers in the pipeline to ensure modernization plans dovetail with long-term strategic interests.