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June 21, 1999
IAF scouting around for force multipliers
Ranvir Nayar in Paris
The Indian Air Force has been scouting around for new platforms and force multipliers to add to its muscle for taking on the challenges that could be posed by the new and emerging security and strategic concerns of the new millenium.
A high level team, led by the deputy chief of air staff, Air Marshal S S Hussain Naqvi, spent a week at the Le Bourget airport, the site of the Paris Air Show.
ACM Naqvi told rediff.com in an exclusive interview that he and his team had been examining almost all the elements that fit into the two categories of platform and force multipliers.
''We have come here with a very open mind. And we are prepared to look at everything that is available and that meets our requirements and criteria. So, we have been meeting a fairly large variety of manufacturers from a lot of countries,'' he said
ACM Naqvi witnessed several displays organised specially for him and his team. He said that India was looking at all the potential suppliers, with just one qualification.
''The only condition that we have is that the country should have the same principles that India has. We would like them to treat us with the same respect and consideration that he would treat his customers,'' he said, barely veiling the reference to the United States.
During his visit, ACM Naqvi held discussions with the French, the Russians, the Israelis and the British. Over 1600 companies from various nations participated in the week-long aviation jamboree.
The discussions with the Russians centred around the tragedy of the opening day of the air show on June 12 when a Sukhoi SU30 MK crashed during the inaugural ceremony.
The Russians were keen to explain to ACM Naqvi that the crash did not have anything to do with the quality or safety of the aircraft. They also assured him that the crash will not have any bearing on the delivery schedules for the Su-30s that the Indian Air Force has ordered.
Two Su-30s were delivered last week and two more are expected by the end of the current month. ACM Naqvi, too, dismissed any suggestions that the crash had any safety related implications.
''During air shows like this one, pilots always push the aircraft to extremes and then accidents can always happen. But it does not make the aircraft unsafe. If that were the case, then no aircraft can claim to be safe and no one would be buying any aircraft at all,'' he said.
ACM Naqvi also visited the Israeli pavilion at the air show. The Israelis have already developed a reputation for their advanced technology in several fields that closely mirror India's requirements. These include air to air and air to ground missiles, advanced avionics like radar, communication equipment and night vision equipment.
He also held discussions with the European manufacturers Dassault and Aerospatiale Matra. The former is the manufacturer of the Mirage and Alphajet aircraft while Aerospatiale manufactures a range of defence equipment including missiles, radar, aircraft and communication equipment.
Some of these high precision equipment could prove extremely useful in situations like the current conflict in Kargil where visibility is a problem and a superior machine can make all the difference.
Though ACM Naqvi had several rounds of fruitful discussions with several manufacturers, he was clear that the final orders were still some way away. ''I have not brought my cheque book. I am only looking at what is compatible with our requirement. And from here on, the normal procedure will take over,'' the air marshal revealed.
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