IAF Chief makes case for indigenous 5th generation fighter, says chopper shot down by “mistake”

Indian Air Force

New Delhi: Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria made a strong case for indigenise production of Fifth generation fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF) saying there is no plan to import such jets and reliance would be on Indian efforts to develop the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) for future requirements.

Addressing the media for the first time since taking over as the Air Chief on September 30, ahead of 87th anniversary of the IAF to be celebrated on October eight with air display at the Hindon air base near here, he said the plan is to induct it in large numbers, with the immediate case for 83 aircraft to be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) heading towards a signing. The Air Chief said the focus for future procurements will be to cut down on imports and promote the Indian industry and research organisations that are developing combat systems.

“On the fifth generation (requirement), the AMCA has been given a go ahead and we have given it our whole support and are putting in our energies there. No import is planned in the foreseeable future,” he said.

Making it clear that the budgetary support planned is only for the indigenous AMCA, the air chief said it has been decided to take on the project and technology and weapons capability is being developed.

On the LCA, the Air Force Chief said after the order for 83 jets of the Mk 1 A variant, the IAF will go for a larger order of the more advanced Mk 2 version. “The AMCA and the LCA Mk 2 will be parallel projects. They will have different teams and will go on independently,” he said.

On the shooting down of its own helicopter by the IAF on February 27, he admitted it was a “big mistake” and disciplinary action is being taken against officers held responsible for the incident.

A surface-to-air missile of the Indian Air Force brought down the Mi-17 aircraft in Budgam in the Kashmir Valley, killing six IAF personnel on board the chopper and a civilian on the ground.

The court of inquiry (CoI) ordered into the incident has completed its probe and it has been established that the helicopter was hit by IAF’s own missile, said the Air Chief.

“It has been established that the helicopter was hit by our own missile. We have already taken administrative action. Disciplinary action is being taken against two officers. We admit that it was a big mistake and necessary steps have been taken so that such incident does not recur,” he said.

The probe found there were “vital gaps” in communication and coordination between the ground staff and the crew of the chopper. It also found violations of standard operating procedures.