Defence of space-based assets vital, says Air Chief

India needs to brace for a spectrum of threats
Last Updated 22 January 2010, 17:04 IST

Delivering the annual Air Chief Marshal L M Katre memorial lecture organised by the Air Force Association, Karnataka Branch, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Aeronautical Society of India, Bangalore branch, here on Friday, Naik said, “It is important to develop space-enabled capabilities to counter the vulnerability of our satellites to anti-satellite weaponry developed in our neighbourhood.”

Asian countries are the new global powerhouses and the region is beset with turmoil, instability and strife. “India needs to prepare itself for a spectrum of threats,” he cautioned.

On challenges faced by the Armed Forces, the Air Chief Marshal said that a steady infusion of new technology, modernising of equipment, better training and education were vital. “We need to have the ability and freedom to operate across all domains - air, land sea, space - and information domain”.  

Elaborating on the three-pronged transformation plan being implemented presently, Naik said that preserving and maintaining existing equipment, selective upgradation of aircraft as well as acquisition activities were continuing.

T Mohana Rao, Chairman of ASI, Bangalore, said that 19 hours of testing have been completed by the indigenous Kaveri aircraft engine as on date. “India is the sixth country in the world to develop an engine on its own,” he said. The Flight Test Bed trial is due in February 2010, he added.

Ashok Nayak, Chairman, HAL, said that the group was trying to extend its footprints to manage operations at the squadron-level at the Air Force. “A proposal has been sent to the Air Force in this connection.”

Speakers showered encomiums on the late L M Katre crediting him for his contributions towards the growth of HAL.

IAF undecided about HPT

Speaking to press persons later, Naik said that the IAF is still contemplating whether to continue to fly or scrap the Hindustan Piston Trainer (HPT-32), the Air Force’s primary aircraft for basic pilot training.

A team headed by the Air Vice Marshal was preparing a report on the feasibility of flying the aircraft.“It should be ready by now,” he said. About the aircraft, the Air Chief Marshal said that it still had residual life in it. “If it is feasible to fly, we would love to fly it.” It may be recalled that two experienced instructors had a fatal crash when flying the aircraft in July last year.

To a query if India felt threatened by the recent move by the US to supply drones to Pakistan to counter Taliban attacks, Naik said, “So long as it is for the fight against Talibans, we have no problem.” On the request made by the Armed Forces for a dedicated satellite, the Air Chief Marshal said the ISRO has to take a decision on it. “We told them that we need one for the Armed Forces. Let them decide about when they can do it.”

When asked about the plans related to refuelling aircraft for fighter jets in the aftermath of the recent cancellation of tenders, Naik said, “We have decided to go for a global re-tendering.” It may be recalled that Airbus-330 was a top contender in this category. The request for information will also be sent to Boeing (US) and Illyushin (Russia), he added.

On the technical progress made by the Air Force, Naik said that the Integrated Air Command and Control System would be ready within two years.

(Published 22 January 2010, 17:04 IST)

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