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Mirage aircraft up-gradation is cost effective: Naik

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Air Chief Marshal P V Naik. A file photo

GANDHINAGAR (PTI): Air Chief Marshal P V Naik said that upgrading old Mirage fighter aircraft is a better option than buying new fighter planes.

When asked why Air Force was spending millions of dollars in upgrading old Mirages as the money could well be used in buying new Sukhois, Naik said, "When you buy an (fighter) aircraft it is not only the aircraft that you buy, you spend money in training people, erecting infrastructure, logistics, spares supply and life time support."

"The residual life of the 50 odd Mirages that are left is another 20 years. If I throw them away I have wasted 20 years of that residual life. But upgrading them, with the infrastructure already available, seems a better option, considering the life time cost," he added.

Talking about the Air Force's long-term perspective planning, Naik said, "Wherever there is residual useful life left, in any system not only aircraft, we try and upgrade. So that at least part of that residual can be used. But wherever there is no residual life left we try and replace."

He further said that when you upgrade an aircraft the cost is higher than 50 per cent of the original cost.

When asked about the role of Air Force in coastal security, the Air Chief Marshall said the Indian Navy has acquired crucial assets for the same purpose.

"For coastal security, fighter aircraft are not required. For that you require slow moving aircraft which can have cameras and other sensors," Naik said.

"As far as Air Force is concerned there is one great asset we can use for coastal security and that is the UAVs (Unmanned Ariel Vehicles). They are already being used in areas like Haraminala," he added.

"With more UAVs we can use them more often. They can remain airborne for longtime. They do not have to come back and give the information. Whatever they see, hear or locate is transmitted simultaneously. Hence these become important assets in coastal areas," Naik added.

He said IAF they had used UAVs in the naxal affected areas 3-4 years ago. "We have used these in Raipur and Jagdalpur. But the problem in these areas is that they are covered by jungles. So, as far as visual clues are concerned, we can't get there as there is a thick forest cover."

"However one can get some clues using Infra Red lights or detect some metals. Also, naxals are very fleeting targets, so locating them under the jungle cover is very difficult. But in open areas we can definitely use UAVs more," he added.

Talking about situation at Indo-China border, Naik said, "There are border problems. Such problems cannot be solved so fast. How to proceed is the matter for the government to decide. We are just the military and have to ensure that the border is secure."

Naik said that Air Force was taking steps to build infrastructure along the border and there was a concerted effort in that direction.

"We are purchasing new aircraft not keeping China or some other country in mind. It is a question of capability built up in the east which was long over due. It should have been done 10 years ago but we didn't have the money at that time. But now we have the money as the government has sanctioned certain projects which are moving on fast track," he said.

"But for us, fast track is also 3-5 years because the areas are also very difficult. No contractor is ready to go there. The weather and altitude are adverse. There are not enough roads and the working season is just 3-4 months in a year," Naik added.

The Air Chief Marshal further said that new bases are being thought of and the old bases are being strengthened to accept new aircraft.

About the trials of new aircraft being purchased, Naik said by the end of April they will be completing all the trials.

"Trials of two aircraft are still left, by end of April we will be completing all the trials after that about 2-3 months to complete the report and then we will be submitting it to the government," he added.

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