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Loss Of Aircraft In Peacetime Hurts Wartime Capabilities: Air Force Chief

Asserting that the Indian Air Force is "ever-prepared" to meet any contingency, its chief B S Dhanoa today said that the induction of 36 Rafale jets and S-400 missile systems would enhance the capabilities of the force.

Amid instances of air crashes, Air Marshal Dhanoa said aerospace safety is one area where the force needs to maintain a constant vigil as "loss of aircraft in peacetime is not only expensive, but also diminishes the wartime capability".

Efforts are being made to minimise accidents due to human error by providing best possible training to the air crew and technicians to meet the challenges of operating current generation fighters, as well as legacy aircraft and weapons systems.

"The IAF is ever prepared to meet any contingency that challenges the defence of our country. In the year gone by, IAF has continued to grow from strength to strength and achieved a number of operational milestones," Air Marshal Dhanoa said in his address on Air Force Day here.

He said it is the duty of the Air Force personnel to remain combat worthy and maintain combat systems operational for any contingency at a short notice.

"Acquisition of 36 Rafale aircraft, S-400 missiles systems, Apache attack helicopters and Chinook heavy lift helicopters would further enhance our capabilities," he said.

The ongoing induction of state-of-the-art Tejas precision weapons is a part of the IAF's larger modernisation programme, he noted.

India and Russia last week signed the multi-billion air missile defence system deal. The deal to buy Rafale jets was signed with France in 2016.

The Air Marshal had last week termed the procurement of the 36 Rafale jets, the deal which is currently mired in controversy, and S-400 missile defence systems as the much needed "booster shots" to the Air Force.

Speaking on 'Gaganshakti', the IAF drill that saw a mobilisation of 1,4000 officers and 14,000 personnel, Air Marshal Dhanoa said it showcased the operational capability and readiness of the force.

During the exercise, more than 11,000 sorties were flown, including approximately 9,000 sorties by fighter aircraft, he said.

Elucidating on the role of Air Force in peacetime operations, he said during the Kerala floods this year, 23 aircraft and 25 helicopters of the IAF were pressed into the service.

The IAF also provided timely assistance in fighting forest fires in Theni (Tamil Nadu), Katra (Jammu and Kashmir), Pathankot (Punjab), Kasuli (Himachal Pradesh) and even urban fires in Delhi, he noted.

"In addition, airlifting relief material to Myanmar and Indonesia, fire fighting on an Indian Merchant Ship and CASEVAC of pilgrims stranded at Kailash Mansarovar and Amarnath Yatra were also carried out," Air Marshal Dhanoa said.

The IAF, he said, has been actively supporting the government's initiatives for growth of regional air connectivity under the 'UDAAN' scheme. Forty-five new routes have been cleared through military airspaces while 33 defence airfields have been opened for joint use to accommodate civilian flights, he added.

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