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IAF Chief's exclusive press conference at Aero India 2011

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Surya Kiran Aero batic team at Aero India 2011.

Asia's largest air show Aero India 2011 that began here Wednesday came to a close on Sunday. The five-day exposition that had some of the world’s leading aerospace industries displayed some of the most exquisite flying machines and equipment.

During the airshow, Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal PV Naik addressed the media in a press conference and thanked them for the excellent coverage of the Aero India 2011. He answered myriad questions from various media persons and defence journalists. Following is the extract of the press conference in Q&A format.

Q. Sir, public money is continuously spent on defence and this figure is increasing every year. Don’t you think we should focus on other areas, for example, agriculture more rather spending it on defence?

A: Money spent on armed forces and procurement of inventories is for national security. We are excelling in various fields like IT, Medicine, agriculture, etc but the truth is until or unless our borders are secure, no nation can thrive.

Q. What is your plan for next 15 years?

A: The Indian Air Force (IAF) is undergoing a major modernisation process. We have full-scale expansion plan ready for the next 15 years, which includes, satellites, AWACS, Aerosats, long-range aircraft, etc, procurement of weapons, and also protection of these assets with air defence system, SAMs, etc.

Q. What is the current status of the Mirage 2000 upgrade?

A: IAF is hoping to sign the long-stuck Mirage 2000 upgrade contract with France by March this year. The negotiations have been concluded and reports have been submitted to the Defence Ministry. We are trying to conclude this deal by end of this financial year. The value of the contract is not yet set. Mirage 2000 upgrade includes modern cockpit with high situational awareness, advanced avionics, modern radar and sensors. The aircraft will also be carrying new weapons and the life extension is upto 20 more years.

Q. The usages of UAV are increasing in the defence sector. What is the point of view of IAF on that?

A: UAV is not the right term. One should identify it as Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). Currently, all the three armed forces are planning to acquire more and more UAVs.

Q. Pakistan has been signing many deals with US and also receiving J-10 aircraft from China. Sir, what is your opinion on that?

A: Every nation has right to develop their strength and India has no problems over any such deals, so long as they do not create hindrance our peace and security. Pakistan and China are developing their Air Force, so is India. As far as threat perception is concerned, military minds are told to analyse each and everything, however small or big, which affects the development of the country. So, we analyse everything which is small or big and we plan accordingly.

Q. Sir, what is the current status of the MMRCA contract?

A: India is likely to sign the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) contract by September 2011. Commercial negotiations for the deal will begin in next two to three weeks and we will be signing the MMRCA contract by September this year. I would also like to patent the flight evaluation process of this deal, as it was the finest and was done so properly by my personnel. But after we submitted the report to the ministry of defence in July last year, there have been so many queries on technical details that a lot of education had to be done. I hope the CNC will start talks in a week or two, unless dissatisfied vendors put a spoke in the wheel, when it will take more time.

Q. What about old Russian aircraft MiG-21?

A: We have already started phasing out Mig-21 fighters. Only one squadron is left for the phase out. From 2014-2015 onwards we’ll start refurbishing our strength.

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