Amid the ongoing probe into the VVIP chopper deal controversy in which a former Indian Air Force chief is facing action by the Central Bureau of Investigation, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne on Monday said the Indian Air Force has an unblemished record so far and it is taking measures to ensure there are no deviations.
"We have a well-defined procedure through which purchases are made. The IAF takes care to ensure that there are no deviations and our record has so far remained unblemished. This is not our subjective view. Even the defence ministry has said so in its white paper issued recently," he said.
The IAF chief is in Allahabad on a two-day visit for the annual Commanders' Conference of the Central Air Command, headquartered at Bamrauli on the outskirts of the city.
Referring to the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan 2005-06, Browne said there are capital contracts worth Rs 1.51 lakh crore to help in the modernisation of the IAF, adding, "By 2022, the Indian Air Force will be a fully networked and modernised force capable of facing any type of challenges from any direction."
Replying to a query about the IAF's preparedness with regard to China and Pakistan, Browne said, "We do not confine our preparedness with regard to challenges posed by just one or two countries. We brace ourselves to meet challenges arising from all sides."
The IAF chief said that a move was afoot to phase out the MIG 21 aircraft in view of a large number of crashes being reported in recent years, killing hundreds of pilots and other Air Force staff.
"Phasing out of MIG 21 aircraft is in process. Simultaneously, these are being replenished with better and more sophisticated fighter planes and the process is likely to be complete by 2019," Browne said.
On recruitment of pilots, the Air Chief Marshal said, "There is a shortage of nearly 600 pilots in the Indian Air Force which will be overcome in the next 5-6 years, as by that time we will be able to develop adequate training infrastructure required for the additional staff strength".
"We would, however, like to make it clear that the shortage of manpower is not a major one. Though we are addressing the issue, it is not a cause for grave concern," he asserted.
Browne noted that IAF was providing "extensive" help to paramilitary forces involved in anti-Naxal operations.
"Hundreds of our helicopters have been involved in thousands of sorties in the insurgency-hit regions of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. However, our role has remained limited to carrying troops to affected regions and other relief work," he said.
On being asked why defence personnel join politics or social organisations after retirement, the IAF chief said, "I would not like to comment on retired army or navy officials plunging into active politics or accepting gubernatorial or diplomatic assignments. I would only like to make an observation -- that so far people from the Indian Air Force have stayed away from these things".