IAF planning fighter base at Nyoma in Ladakh

IAF planning fighter base at Nyoma in Ladakh

India is upgrading seven airfields in the northeast for day and night operations and has drawn plans to develop Nyoma in Ladakh as a fully operational station as part of efforts to ramp up defence infrastructure along the border with China, a top commander said Friday.

Addressing a press conference here ahead of the 81st Air Force Day, the IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne, said that funds had been released for upgrading seven advanced landing grounds in the northeast, most of which will be ready by 2016.

Browne said that Nyoma was an important location for both the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force in southeast Ladakh and had good weather round-the-year.
He said the cost of developing the air base would be around Rs.2,173 crore and it will take 4-5 years to develop it.

"We want to operate everything (all kinds of aircraft) from there," he said.
He said the proposal for developing Nyoma was with the finance ministry and is expected to be taken up by the cabinet next month.

India has taken steps to ramp up its infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control to match China's steps in this direction.

Replying to queries on the operation in Keran sector of Jammu and Kashmir against heavily armed militants, Browne said it was "localised" and the the army is capable of dealing with the situation.

Browne, who heads the chiefs of staff committee, also noted that frenetic attempts were being made from the other side of the Line of Control (LoC) to push in infiltrators before the onset of winter.

The Indian Air Force would provide any assistance sought by the army, he added.
He said that IAF was authorised 42 fighter sqaurdons but its present strength is much lower and noted that if the proposed induction of new combat jets does not happen by 2017, the force levels would rapidly fall.

The IAF chief said in case the proposed medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) is not procured by the end of the 12th Plan (2012-2017), then force levels will rapidly go down.

That we have to prevent," he said, adding that "force levels need to be maintained to keep up the country's deterrent capabilities."

Browne said his hope was that in 20 years one of the base repair deopts (BRDs) of the IAF was able to produce a MMRCA. He said some of the BRDs had world class facilities.

"Why not. That is the area we have to target. We have to be self-sufficient in that sense," he said.

French firm Dassault Aviation had bagged the MMRCA deal for 126 planes last year after being declared the lowest bidder. Eighteen aircraft are to be purchased in a fly-away condition, while Hindustan Aeronatics Limited (HAL) is to manufacture the 108 under licence. Price negotiations are currently underway.

Asked if the MMRCA negotiations will be completed this year, he said it was difficult to put a timeline.

He said if the deal is signed next year, the first aircraft will arrive in 2017.
He said the ALGs in the northeast were expected to be ready by 2016.

The ALGs in the northeast include Ziro, Passighat, Walong, Tuting and Mechuka.
Answering another query, he said Mi 8 helicopters, which ferry VIPs, will be phased out from next year and decision will have to be taken on their replacement.

Asked about the three AW-101 helicopters supplied by AugustaWestland for the elite Air Headquarters Communication Squadron, he two of these were in VVIP configuration while one was a cargo variant.

The defence ministry had concluded a contract with AgustaWestland in February 2010 for 12 AW-101 helicopters for 556.262 million euros (Rs.3,726.96 crore). The helicopters were ment to ferry the president, the prime minister and other VVIPs.
The defence ministry has frozen the contract after allegations of kickbacks against top officials of of the Anglo-Italian firm.

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