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Budget curtailment will affect IAF modernisation: Air Chief

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PHALODI, RAJASTHAN (PTI): The decision to curtail the country's defence budget by Rs 10,000 crore will affect Air Force modernisation projects and the issue will be taken up with the Government, Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief NAK Browne said Monday.

Air Chief Marshal Browne, who was on a visit to the Phalodi Air Force Station near Jodhpur, told reporters that the IAF is on a modernisation spree on various fronts and this has been possible "due to generous sanctioning of the budget by the Government and its full utilisation".

However, he said, the "curtailment (of budget) will affect modernisation of the Air Force. We will take up the issue with the Government in order to work out some solution."

Government has imposed around five per cent cut in the Rs 1.93-lakh-crore defence budget in view of the economic slowdown following which key deals like procurement of 126 multi-role combat aircraft are likely to be pushed to the next fiscal.

The Ministry of Finance recently conveyed to the Defence Ministry that there would be a cut of around Rs 10,000 crore.

"We look forward to complete modernisation of the IAF by 2022," Browne said, adding that the pace will be affected by the curtailment of budget.

Browne was on a visit to Phalodi Air Force Station where he formally inducted the 5th helicopter unit of the upgraded MI-17 V5, a medium-lift chopper.

The 6th unit of this helicopter will be deployed in Eastern Command at Hashimara air force base in Assam.

"Contract has been signed for 59 more such helicopters," the IAF Chief said.

Referring to Phalodi station as strategically important considering its location on western border, the Air Chief said that the station is being developed expeditiously.

Browne said that in the upcoming air exercises, 'Iron Fist' and 'Live Wire', it will be a base for fighter detachment and will play a crucial role.

Indigenously developed fighter Tejas will also be participating in exercise 'Iron Fist' for the first time.

"This helicopter squadron will now be permanently based at Phalodi base and very soon fighter squadrons will also be deployed here, which will strengthen our position in the western sector," Browne said.

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