Saturday, Sep 06, 2003
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By R.K. Radhakrishnan
"Now we will have to discuss the technicalities with British Aerospace and sign the contract. But before that we will send our pilots there for training and familiarisation. This will start six months after signing the contract," the Chief of Air Staff, S. Krishnaswamy, told The Hindu today. The Cabinet Committee on Security had approved the purchase of the British Hawks on September 3. As many as 66 Hawks will be inducted into the Force.
Asked if the IAF was ready with a new syllabus to train its pilots on the AJTs the Air Chief said: "We have been ready for a decade." The AJTs will be based in Bidar.
The delay in acquisition of the AJTs could be attributed to the complexity of the programme. Also, the aircraft had undergone many changes; there were as many as 20 variants and the decision-makers needed time to choose the technically best-suited aircraft. The other issue was that it had to be manufactured in the country, the Air Chief Marshal explained. The scandal psychosis because of the media overplaying certain aspects also contributed to the delay, he added.
On air crashes, he said that it was a combination of factors that led to a crash. The IAF had been open about the various aspects, especially in the case of the MiG-21s. In fact, the IAF has taken a conscious decision to inform people on various aspects of the planes.
The MiG-21 can fly for about 40 minutes. Weather dust storms, thunderstorms claimed four planes this year. "The MiG-21 has very short endurance. It then has to land because there is no way the pilot can fly further to land at an airport where the weather is better. He has fuel for about 10 minutes only," he said. The IAF has just over 400 MiG-21s. "We have full confidence in the machines. About 125 of them have been upgraded. The aircraft has a fatigue life till 2012. We intend to go up to that (with the MiG-21s). We are not going to throw them away." The phase-out will happen after that after the MiG-21s have completed their safe lifetime.
The Air Chief was in town for the September 6 air show at Chennai and the band concert the same evening. The Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, will be the chief guest for the show and also attend the concert.
Air Chief Marshal Krishnaswamy said that the idea to hold an air show in Chennai had its genesis in a meeting he had with the Chief Minister, early this year. Ms. Jayalalithaa told him that the people here were aware of the Army and the Navy, but there was no awareness about the role of the Air Force.
"I said that was very unfortunate and asked if we could do an air show here as we have done in most other States," he said and added that the Air Force initially thought of June. The show was postponed then because of the drought.
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