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IAF’s fighter airfields reeling under severe shortcomings, operation readiness hit: CAG

In a scathing report, national auditor CAG today highlighted a range of operational shortcomings in frontline airfields of the Indian Air Force, including lack of aircraft refuellers, radars and ammunition handling equipment.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), pointing out gaping holes in the airfields, said inadequate equipment and deficient infrastructure are impacting the readiness of the force to deal with any possible security challenge.

In its report tabled in parliament, the CAG said though the government in 2011 decided to improve facilities at the airfields under the Modernisation of Air Field Infrastructure (MAFI), nothing much has changed on the ground in most of them.

“Operational readiness of the airfields is vital for air operations, especially during conflict. Audit found inadequacies in the support facilities at IAF airfields adversely affecting their readiness,” it said.

“These included facilities like restoration of runway after bombing, modernisation of communication systems, safe landing and take-off of aircraft, surveillance of aircraft while in air, refuelling of aircraft and handling of armaments to be loaded on the aircraft,” the auditor said.

The report said about 86 per cent of the fighter airfields were to be provided latest runway rehabilitation system (RRS) but the facility was made available only in half of the airfields.

The RRS is essential for restoration of the runways in the quickest possible time in the wake of bomb attacks.

“Audit found various shortcomings in infrastructure, equipment and support facilities required for operational readiness at various airfields, as gainst the prescribed quantities and performance level at most airfields,” the CAG said.

The CAG also talked about lack of adequate surveillance radars, equipment to handle weapons and ammunition and a shortage of aircraft support vehicles and refuellers in the airfields.

It said surveillance radar element (SRE) and precision approach radar (PAR) are key components of ground control radar system.

However, only 43 per cent airfields were provided with both PAR and SRE while 23 per cent of the airfields do not have either of them.

The basic function of SRE is to keep surveillance up to a range of 370 km over the airfields while PAR supports the landing of aircraft upto a visibility level of 800 metre.

The report said IAF initiated the process to procure 233 refuellers during 2012-15.

However, only 12 could be procured so far.

The CAG also criticised the various aspect of the procurement of the Indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control System.

The project for indigenous development of AEW&C System was approved in 2004 at a cost of Rs 1,800 crore to be completed by 2011.

“Besides, non-achievement of certain operational requirements specified by IAF, there was time overrun of 70 per cent. Selection of Embraer as platform created design constraints and caused delay,” it said.

The auditor further said the project conceived in 2002 is yet to be fully realised leaving gaps in air surveillance capability of IAF.

It also criticised the government for delays in repair and overhaul of Mi-17 1V helicopters “Repair and overhaul of the helicopters suffered from severe delays, excess expenditure and monopolization of repair and overhaul of helicopters by the Russian firm.

“By the time the contract was signed, most of the helicopters were grounded for want of repairs,” it said.

The CAG said by not setting up repair and overhaul facility which would have costed about Rs 196 crore, IAF committed to spend more than Rs 600 crore by sending the helicopters abroad for repairs.

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