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Ready to scramble any time: IAF chief

Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa on Sunday voiced concern over the loss of lives of Air Force personnel in peacetime.

“Despite the high intensity of our flying [sorties], we cannot afford to have accidents and lose valuable lives and assets. Our losses in peacetime are a cause for concern, and we are making efforts to prevent accidents...,” he said, paying homage to the seven soldiers who were killed when an Mi-17 V5 helicopter on an air-maintenance mission crashed in Tawang last Friday.

He was speaking at a function to mark the 85th Air Force Anniversary at the Hindon Air Force station.

As for the measures to improve safety, he said state-of-the-art flight simulators had been inducted for training. “To avoid bird strikes, we have inducted microlight aircraft for bird surveys.”

He said that according to the preliminary assessment, the helicopter crashed at Tawang after its tail-rotor disengaged. “The exact cause will be known later. I will not speak more on the issue as a court of inquiry is on.”

Stunning display

The IAF enthralled the audience with an interesting flypast. The aerobatic team Surya Kiran performed at full strength with nine aircraft, after a gap of several years, and the indigenous Netra Airborne Early Warning and Control System mounted on an Embraer aircraft made its debut. The Surya Kiran team did not fly for four years following a shortage of intermediate jet trainers, and was put together again in October 2015 with Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers.

An interesting part of the Surya Kiran performance was the various formations. The nine aircraft flew in the form of Su-30, Tejas and Rafale. A surprise formation was that of the SAAB Gripen which is in the race for the single-engine aircraft tender along with F-16 of Lockheed Martin.

The IAF is expected to issue a tender for over 100 single-engine fighter jets in the next few weeks.

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