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IAF inducts IL-78 midair refuellers

March 04, 2003 10:39 IST

The first of the six IL-78 midair refuellers joined the Indian Air Force on Monday.

With this India has become only the sixth air force in the world to have such a force multiplier.

The IL-78 landed at the Agra airbase from Uzbek capital Tashkent to make the newly raised Squadron-78, nicknamed 'battle-cry', operational.

Now the IAF can strike targets as far as 7,000km with two midair refuels.

An IAF spokesman said the second refueller would come in April and all the six IL-78s, each capable of carrying 36 tonnes of aviation fuel to a distance of 3,000km, would be inducted by the yearend.

"The midair refuellers have already become operational as our air crew and maintenance personnel have been already undergoing training in Uzbekistan," the spokesman, Squadron Leader Rajesh Dhingra, said.

He said the IAF's SU-30MKIs have been fitted with refueller adapters and the French Mirage 2000 and Jaguars are in the process of being made compatible.

The IAF had its first experience at midair refuelling during the recent first-ever exercises with the French Air Force.

The first IL-78 was flown in Agra by a team led by Group Captain Shauvik Roy, who will command Squadron-78 and an air and maintenance crew of 16.

Defence Minister George Fernandes received the air tankers at a ceremony in Tashkent last week.

Uzbek defence minister, the country's top officials and chairman of the Tashkent Aircraft Production Corporation attended the ceremony.

On behalf of the IAF, vice chief of the air staff Air Marshal M Mcmohan and assistant chief of the air staff [concepts and doctrine] Air Vice Marshal Raj Kumar received the refuellers from the defence minister.

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