Most IAF bases lack modern navigation equipment

Most IAF bases lack modern navigation equipment

Only 6 bases received new air management system

Most IAF bases lack modern navigation equipment

Five years after the Indian Air Force (IAF) signed an agreement with the Tata group to modernise its 30 airfields, work on only 6 has been completed.

In March 2011, the IAF had signed a Rs 1,220-crore agreement with Tata Power to modernise 30 of its air bases within 42 months. But till December 2015, work was completed only in 6 places including Bhatinda, where the pilot project was conducted. Other bases that received new air traffic management, navigation and communication systems are Adampur, Jorhat, Kalaikunda, Bareilly and Pune, sources said.

According to the project, the first 30 airfields were to be completed by the end of 2014 following which another 37 airfields of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Home Ministry agencies were to be done. With the first phase of the project way behind schedule, it would be several years before all IAF airfields have these aides.

The first 3 years of the MAFI (modernisation of airfield infrastructure) programme was a waste as the pilot project in Bhatinda began only in March 2014. All these instrumental aids are meant for improving the operational efficiency of the IAF's fighter fleet.

“Such delays should not become a regular and acceptable feature of the process and callousness in approach should be shed,” a panel of lawmakers told the defence ministry.

While equipping all IAF airfields with modern navigation instruments would take years, 9 airfields still don’t have permanent night landing facilities. In those 9 bases, only limited night operations are carried out using portable lighting system.

The IAF has 53 airfields, out of which, permanent lighting system is available in only 42 places.

“Night landing facilities should be part of all the airfields as in the present era of technological advancement, this is not a far stretched requirement,” the standing committee on defence says in its report tabled in the Parliament.

Despite experiencing limitations in improving the existing fields, IAF now plans to operationalise another 24 abandoned air fields. These 24 airfields are among the 39 disused airstrips that are with the IAF.

The plan is to make them operational for deployment of long-range missiles, radars, weapon storage areas as also for emergency recovery strips for helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.

Also, there is barely any progress in upgrading the Nyoma and Kargil air station in Jammu and Kashmir for fighter operations, which was planned more than 5 years ago.

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