The operational availability of fighter aircraft in the Indian Air Force has been improved “substantially” and very quickly and this has increased the strategic strength of the air force, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said at the Aero India 2015 on Wednesday.

The minister refused to name a figure when asked how many new fighter aircraft were needed by the Indian Air Force for optimum operational capability. “The total number of aircraft required cannot be disclosed as this involves the security of our nation. But all solutions need not be in black and white – an easy solution needs to be the in improving operational availabilityof aircraft,” he said.

He said the number of aircraft readily available for combat was always considerably less that then the total due to operational issues such as overhauling, change of parts, regular repair, etc. This measure to decrease downtime, combined with augmentation of the fleet with a number of aircraft like the Su-30s that were still being delivered as part in balance on existing deals, would help the Indian Air Force considerably, he said. These twin measures, coupled with the supply of Tejas aircraft, meant that the Indian Air Force’s fleet of fighters was being regularly strengthened.

He refused to make any comment on the ongoing speculation over the Rafale deal, saying that this would affect talks going on between the Defence Ministry and the company.”The study of the proposal is still in process.So, no comment,” he said.

Mr Parrikar also categorically ruled out any technical problem in the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas that has already been handed over to the Indian Air Force. He said a small leakage issue on the additional drop tanks had been noticed. “It is something very negligible – about 30 ml of fuel lost over 10 hours…it is a problem that, as an engineer, I can tell you… it can be very easily solved,” he said. He pointed out that the Tejas that was handed over was the first of 20 that after Initial Operational Clearance. The problem would be rectified by the time the next 20 Mark II aircraft were delivered after the Final Operational Clearance, he said.

Sent by S.Nanda Kumar – IMR Edit Team

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