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IAF's modernisation programme to start at Hindan

Ajit K Dubey in New Delhi | November 11, 2008 13:06 IST

As part of its ambitious modernisation programme, the Indian Air Force will upgrade nine air bases to world standards in the Western Air Command.

"Nine airfields in our command have been chosen for modernisation under the Modernisation of Air Field Infrastructure programme. Hindan near the capital will be the first to be modernised," WAC chief Air Marshal Pranab Kumar Barbora told PTI in New Delhi [Images] on Tuesday.

The IAF is planning to upgrade the infrastructure of 39 of its airfields nationwide under MAFI, which will include flying aids and equipment that would enable the airbases to operate all types of aircraft including fighters and transport fleet.

IAF has chosen the Hindan air force station in Ghaziabad -- its closest air base outside Delhi -- for carrying out the MAFI's pilot project.

"We will modernise the infrastructure of our airfields, making them suitable for operating all types of aircraft. As you are aware, IAF is planning to induct a number of new aircraft," Barbora said.

IAF will get 126 Multi-role Combat Aircraft in five years for which tenders are under scrutiny. The contract for C-130J Hercules has been signed with the United States and they will be joining IAF soon. The new VIP business jets have already started joining the fleet and various other existing aircraft are being upgraded.

"These aircraft will have modern avionics and other systems. They have to be compatible with the systems on ground. That is why we decided to go ahead with the programme," the WAC chief said.

The modernised airfields will have latest equipment and aids such as Tactical Air Navigation, Integrated Landing Systems, upgraded communication systems, airfield approach aid systems, Digital Measuring Systems, VHF Omni Range, Range Navigation aids and modern meteorological facilities.

Commercial airliners will also reap benefits of the modern airfields of international standards, as they use a number of IAF bases for passenger operations.

"IAF will upgrade its airfields in one go and not go for the piece-meal approach, as we face difficulties later on with regard to compatibility of airfield infrastructure with the aircraft," Barbora said.

By awarding contract to one company, IAF was hopeful it would have no problems in procuring spares and other support systems for the equipment, he added.

Hindan has been chosen as the first base for modernisation under MAFI, as it was closer to the capital and senior officers could easily visit the base to check the progress of the project.

"We plan to do the pilot project at the Hindan air base. After the work is done on the base, we will do whatever fine-tuning and changes are required and then use it as a template and put it on other bases," said Barbora.

Incidentally, C-130J Hercules, the IAF's new transport aircraft for Special Operations, would have Hindan as its home base.

The IAF has already issued the Request for Proposal for MAFI in 2007 to several foreign and Indian companies.

"The RFP for modernisation project was sent to various global players which includes US defence major Raytheon bidding jointly with Tata Power [Get Quote], French Siemens and Thales and Italian consortium Finmeccanica," according to Defence Ministry sources.

IAF was hoping that the government would take a decision on awarding of the contract soon, as it wanted the project to start by next year so as to complete it before the arrival of the MRCAs around 2012.

The MAFI project would take about three years for completion once the contract is awarded and hence the IAF was keen on getting the project started as soon as possible, the sources added.

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