New aircraft deal crucial for IAF: Browne

The Indian Air Force (IAF) chief NAK Browne on Monday indicated that the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) deal, pertaining to acquisition of 126 aircraft at a cost of around Rs 45,000 crore, was crucial in the wake of the fact that the Mig-21 aircraft were being phased out. The phasing out of all the four variants of these aircraft will be over by 2019-20.

Browne was visiting the headquarters of the Central Air Command (CAC), Bamrauli, here for the two-day annual conference of the CAC commanders, which began today. Addressing the press, Browne said: "To replace the phased out aircraft, it must be understood that we will need new aircraft by 2019-20. If the MMRCA deal is signed this year, we will be having adequate number of aircraft by the time the old ones are all phased out."

Out of the four Mig-21 variants, the first, Type-77, would be phased out by 2014. The other three variants (Type-96, Type-75 and Bison) would be phased out between 2016 and 2019, Browne said. There were a total of 874 such aircraft and the last one rolled out in 1987, he added.

Maintaining that there was adequate support from the ministry and the government on the issue, Browne said, "Everybody agrees this is the right approach. This will have to be done," he said. The Air Force Chief further added that the IAF would become fully modernised and networked Air Force by 2022.

In the past couple of months, the MMRCA negotiations had hit roadblock with the French company Dassault, which will be providing the aircraft, seeking some changes in the terms of engagement.

Browne informed that, as part of the long-term integrated perspective plan envisaged in 2005-06, a total of 318 contracts worth over Rs 1,51,000 crore have been finalised. "That plan is now unfolding and we are getting deliveries," he said.

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