Government to sanction more fighter aircraft squadrons for IAF

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Ajit K Dubey

Bangalore, Feb 11 (PTI) Preparing itself for a two-frontwar scenario, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has sent a proposalto the Defence Ministry to increase its sanctioned fighteraircraft strength from 39.5 to 45 squadrons.

"We have proposed to increase our squadron strength from39.5 to 45 squadrons and it is under consideration of theDefence Ministry," IAF sources told PTI here.

The current squadron strength of the force is 33. Asquadron comprises around 18 to 20 aircraft.

In view of increasing Chinese military deployments alongthe Line of Actual Control (LAC), the IAF has beenstrengthening its presence in the northeastern sector and hasplans of deploying four squadrons of the air superiority Su-30MKI fighter aircraft there by 2015.

Asked about the time-frame in which the IAF was lookingto achieve these numbers, they said the future acquisitionswould depend on the sanctions accorded to the service by theGovernment.

Under its modernisation plans, air bases on the westernfront are also being equipped with modern airfieldinfrastructure and new fighter planes.

The IAF has plans of inducting more than 350 fighter jetaircraft by the end of this decade which includes the 126multi-role combat planes (M-MRCA), over 160 new Su-30MKIs andover 140 indigenously-built Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).

The contract for the new Su-30s has already been signedand the orders for 126 M-MRCA are expected to be placed by theend of September this year.

Six aircraft including Russian MiG-35, American F-16 andF/A-18, Swedish Gripen, European Eurofighter and French Rafaleare in the race for the M-MRCA contract, which is expected tocost USD 11 billion.

The IAF is also phasing out its old Russian-origin fleetof MiG aircraft -- the 21, 23 and 27 series. The oldest MiG-21Type-77 is likely to be decommissioned by the end of nextyear.

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