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IAF upgrading six airstrips in Arunachal: Naik

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Air Chief Marshall P V Naik. A File photo.

NEW DELHI (PTI): The IAF is upgrading six airstrips in Arunachal Pradesh bordering China to improve its capabilities to move troops there quickly, Air Chief Marshal P V Naik said here on Thursday.

Naik said these airstrips, called Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs), would be to augment the IAF's air maintenance in the border state on the pattern of the three new ALGs made operational in Ladakh region in Jammu and Kashmir and in the western region bordering Pakistan in the last two years.

The IAF has opened the Daulat Beig Oldi, Fukche and Nyoma ALGs in Ladakh since May last year. Among the new ALGs in Arunachal Pradesh to be upgraded are Along, Walong and Machuka.

"It is long overdue. These should have been done much much earlier. But we got a go-ahead only now and we are undertaking this particular task," he said.

On whether a repeat of Sino-Indian war of 1962 was possible, he said, "I do not think it is possible now".

"I am confident, are you?" he said when asked if he was confident of warding off the Chinese threat. "I am sure there should be no lack of confidence in our public as far as preparation of our country or armed forces is concerned for any eventuality," he said .

Noting that nobody with a right frame of mind wanted a war, Naik said "We are having a set of capabilities, we are building a set of capabilities, infrastructure. It is not adversary-specific. The ultimate aim of all wars is peace. The idea of having a defence force is to deter," he added.

On China modernising its armed forces, Naik said India too was modernising "in a big way."

He said the IAF's focus was on building capabilities to "see first and farthest, reach first and farthest, hit accurately and hard, and protect the assets."

Naik said for improving its reconnaissance and surveillance capability, the IAF had inducted an Airborne Early Warning System from Israel, two more of which would be inducted by end of 2010.

It also possesses the Aerostat radars, currently deployed along the borders to keep a tab on enemy airbases and troop movements.

The IAF had bought the C-130J transport aircraft for India's Special Forces operations and these aircraft would be based in Hindon airbase in Ghaziabad near the Capital, he added.

Also, the IAF got six IL-78 air-to-air refuelers and it is in the process acquiring more refuelers, for which a proposal was pending with the Finance Ministry, he said.

For hit capability, the IAF was working in collaboration with the Russians for the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft that it hopes to induct by 2017, Naik said.

Other new acquisitions in the pipeline were multi role transport aircraft, VVIP helicopters, 80 medium lift helicopters, which would be delivered beginning next year.

On the air defence front, the IAF was working on joint ventures for medium range and short range surface-to-air missiles. It would start inducting three squadrons of the Israeli Spyder missiles from 2011-12, he added.

For radars, there were a series of acquisitions planned, including the indigenous Rohini radars from DRDO and BEL, low and medium power radars, and low-level light weight radars for mountainous terrains.

"We are looking at overall build up of capability and it is not adversary-specific, but capability-specific. IAF is looking at becoming a leaner and meaner force. The PM has already described our area of responsibility to extend from Hormuz to Malacca," Naik stressed when asked about the Chinese air force, which was stated to be three times larger than IAF.

Regarding the deployment of Sukhoi air superiority fighter jets in Tezpur, Assam, Naik said the infrastructure of the airbase was being upgraded and once it was over, the full strength of a Sukhoi squadron would be based there.

The IAF had earlier this year deployed four of its Sukhois at Tezpur as a precursor to the full squadron deployment.

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