The IAF is all set to raise four more squadrons of Su-30 MKI fighter in the near future as it prepares to induct the tenth unit of the aircraft in Punjab along the Pakistan border.
Codenamed 'Flying Lancers', the process to set up the new Number-15 squadron will be initiated in December and will be fully operational by middle of the next year, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne said.
"By the end of this year, in December, and early next year, we will be inducting a new Su-30 squadron, based in Punjab. That will be the tenth squadron of Su-30 and the process will continue for at least six months from January to June," he said.
Addressing a press conference before the 80th anniversary of the IAF, Browne said the force will deploy more Sukhoi squadrons in Eastern and Southern sectors.
"We are raising three-four more squadrons of Sukhoi. Two extra squadrons are being raised in Eastern Sector. So far we have raised two squadrons there and two more are in process," he said, replying to a query on deployment of the fighter aircraft in the northeast.
On IAF's future plans to induct Su-30 MKIs in the force, he said, "One more squadron will be based in Punjab and one will be in Southern Command in Thanjavur. Therefore, we will have 13-14 total squadrons of Sukhoi to add to our strength."
On development of infrastructure in the northeast, Browne said the force is focusing there in terms of infrastructure, radars and air defence systems. It will also deploy the Medium-Multi Role Combat Aircraft (M-MRCA) there after its induction in the force, he said.
IAF is also planning to induct additional C-130J transport aircraft, which will be based at Panagarh in northeast.
"These aircraft (C-130J) will be based at Panagarh in Eastern Air Command, close to Kalaikunda and Kolkata. These will be utilised for entire northeastern region and cover Car Nicobar Island," Browne said, adding that the planes will be used for logistics, transport, special operations support.
On induction and deployment of M-MRCA, he said, "Once the M-MRCA Rafale gets inducted, the first base which is planned is at Ambala. The first two bases will be in the Western Air Command and the other two will be in the Eastern Air Command."
ACM Browne said that total six squadrons of the M-MRCA fighter aircraft will be inducted in the IAF and hoped that the deal to procure them will be formally signed by the end of this financial year.
On future of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), he said the Mark-II version of the plane is still four or five years away.
"Air Force has looked at 40 of the LCA Mark-I variant on the condition that LCA Mark-II will have a more powerful engine and the contract has been signed between the DRDO and the GE Systems for this. That program is still four-five years away," he added.
On replacement of 56 Avro transport aircraft, he said, it will be a great opportunity for the Indian companies to prove their mettle by participating in the process.
On induction of Mi-17 V-5 choppers, he said four units of the aircraft have already been made operational and two more will join the force in December.
"In a record time of just about seven to eight months, we have operationalised four units. One each in Western and Northern sectors and two units in the Eastern Sectors. By December this year, two more units will be operationalised, one in the east and one in the South Western Air Command sector," he said.
Browne added that a contract of 59 additional helicopters will also be signed in the next few months.
© Copyright PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of any PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.