Buying sensors to thwart drone attacks: IAF Chief

Amidst rising tension between India and Pakistan and reports indicating that the Balakot terror camp, which was destroyed by the IAF aerial strikes on February 27 and other such launch pads have become active again, IAF chief RKS Bhadauria said here on Friday if the Government decides they will carry out the necessary action.

Asked about the threat potential of drones especially in the aftermath of such an attack on oil refineries in Saudia Arabia recently as part of the new way of asymmetric warfare, the IAF chief had anticipated such a challenge and we are also procuring sensors and other equipment to thwart any attack. He said the IAF is also aware of incidents in Punjab where drones were used to drop weapons by Pakistan.

Sounding this warning to Pakistan without naming it, the IAF chief, however, said it is not the IAF strategy to use such strikes as the first step but if any incident takes place, in obvious reference to Pulwama attack, the Service is ready if the Government decides.

He also said it was wrong to assume that despite the Balakot air raids, terrorist camps were now thriving. If Balakot strikes had not taken place, the level of terrorism would have been much more, he pointed out. The Air Chief was addressing the annual Press conference ahead of the Air Force Day on October 8 and responding to Army Chief General Bipin Rawat’s recent statement about Balakot reviving.

On China rapidly ramping its infrastructure especially along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and modernising its air force, he said, “We know what exactly is happening there(China).”

Responding to queries about IAF’s modernisation, he said the focus is on indigenisation and modernization besides acquiring critical weapons and spares to maintain operational preparedness. In one of the major steps towards indigenisation, the IAF is backing the design and production of advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA) by DRDO. It will be a fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA). Bhadauria ruled out importing a new aircraft of such generation “now or in foreseeable future.”

Incidentally, India and Russia have been working on the joint project to develop FGFA since 2007. Both sides had signed only a preliminary $295 million design contract for the co-development of the FGFA in 2010.

He also dismissed reports about procuring 36 more Rafale fighter jets from France and said the process of selecting the suitable fighter for the 114-jet project is on. These jets will be manufactured within India as part of the Strategic Partnership. The proposed deal is worth over 10 billion dollars.

Bhauduria said IAF will soon place an order for 83 more indigenously designed and manufactured Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA). The cost negotiations were in an advanced stage, he said adding besides these projects, the IAF will soon procure 21 more MIG-29s and 12 more SU-30s.

About the induction plane of 36 Rafale jets as per the government to Govt deal with France worth over Rs 58,000 crores, he said the first four Rafales manufactured as per the Indian specifications will come to India in May end next year. Bhadauria as deputy chief of air staff was instrumental in the Rafale jet negotiations with the French Government and Dassault Aviation, manufacturers of the fighter jet. As tribute to him, the first Indian Rafale aircraft is having tail no RB-01.

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