IAF to Soon Have 2,000 Aircraft, Says Senior Officer

Indian Air Force

New Delhi: The aircraft strength of the Indian Air Force (IAF) will soon touch 2,000 from the present 1,400 thus opening up more opportunities for the MSME sector in repair and overhaul, a senior IAF officer said on November 15.

There will be a huge requirement of aircraft in the next 10 to 20 years in military aviation of the country, said Air Marshal RKS Shera, Air Officer Maintenance of the IAF.

“The number is going to blow up from whatever we have today at 1,400, it will rise to 2,000 soon,” he said at a programme here. The induction of medium transport aircraft, Airbus C295, in the IAF will begin soon, he said adding that the force has already inducted Rafale fighter jets from Dassault Aviation of France.

Apart from these, a large number of unmanned aerial vehicles, drones, and various other machines are to be acquired in the military sector, Air Marshal Shera, who heads the Maintenance Command of the IAF, said. “The requirement of repair and overhaul of these aircraft and machines will go up and up,” he said.

The IAF officer said that to service and keep the machines airworthy, there is a huge opportunity for the Indian MSME sector in the manufacturing of materials, tools, and development of automated technologies. “It is not only the number of aircraft. It is also the complex technologies that are going to come to our country for which we need the right kind of academia and the industry backup so that we become more self-reliant and indigenous,” he said.

Air Marshal Shera said that the IAF always promotes indigenisation and self-reliance. All the base repair depots (BRD) of the air force are self-reliant as far as repair and overhaul is concerned and get 90 per cent of requirement indigenously, he said.

“We procure 90 per cent of our spares requirement indigenously and all that happens through our tier-two and tier-three industry partners; that’s where we have a lot of scope for MSMEs,” the officer said. He said, “We have a challenge in the Indian Air Force as we are operating a mix of our inventory and got legacy machines from 50 to 60 years old to state-of-the-art aircraft.”

Air Marshal Shera said that the IAF operates from the 1960s vintage Avro aircraft to state-of-the-art C17s, C130J transporters and will soon have the C295 from Airbus.

With the huge array of aircraft of different vintage, there was also a large requirement of taking care of “our obsolescence”, he said adding that the air force needs “industry partners to find good solutions to mitigate our obsolescence as far as our technical issues are concerned”. He said that the IAF brings together academia, the R&D and the industry to find solutions to its requirements.

In order to have skilled technicians and engineers in the aviation, the IAF is working with colleges of repute and has MoUs with IITs and the IISc, Bengaluru. He said that the IAF advises the academia on the syllabus and ask them to tweak it as the air force realized that not much of military aviation was being taught in aeronautical engineering courses.

“In this area, we also find that there is a dearth of knowledge in the country,” he said, adding that the IAF has recently started apprentice programme for ITI students at its BRDs for one or two-year terms and there was a good response to it.