New Delhi - Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Tuesday assured that the government will provide all assistance to the Indian Air Force (IAF) to meet its rapid modernisation plans, but cautioned that this cannot be accelerated "in fits and starts" as it is a continuous and time-consuming process.
Antony, who inaugurated the first bi-annual IAF Commanders' Conference, said that capacity building is a steady process.
"Our government is aware of the need to modernize IAF at a rapid pace and of its long-term plans for capacity building. Modernisation is a continuous, time-consuming process and cannot be accelerated in fits and starts," he said.
Noting with satisfaction that the budget allotted to IAF has been fully utilised, Antony said the government will continue to support the modernisation process to strengthen the capacity of IAF during the next three Five Year Plan periods.
"We have put in place detailed procurement procedures, so while a number of procurement schemes have been finalised, others are being processed for approval and are in various stages. The capacity-building of the Force also involves both, upgradation of existing systems and platforms and our government has also taken several steps in this direction," said Antony.
"The Air Defence system of the Indian Air Force is being further strengthened with new inductions and integration of weapons and modern sensors. All airfields of IAF are being upgraded in a phased manner with modern navigation equipment and runway aids," he added.
Reiterating the need for indigenisation in defence procurement to achieve the goal of self-reliance, Antony said: "Even as we undertake the modernisation drive, our Government is acutely aware of the urgent need to encourage indigenisation and take steady steps towards self-reliance in defence production so that the IAF need not rely on foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) for procurement of major aircraft and equipment."
"Indigenisation will not only help the domestic economy, but will also reduce our excessive dependence on foreign countries," he added.
Underlining flight safety as the key to success, Antony said that he has instituted a Ministerial-level Committee to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the IAF' Court of Inquiry as regards civil agencies.
"I have also instituted a Ministerial level Committee to look into the implementation of recommendations of the Court of Inquiry pertaining to agencies other than Indian Air Force," he said.
The Defence Minister also lauded the contribution of Indian Air Force in disaster mitigation.
"The creation of Rapid Action Medical teams (RAMT) and its deployment, along with a 25-bed Tent Based Medical Shelter (TBMS) in the wake of natural calamities, is a welcome move by the Air Force," he said.
Antony further said the government is aware of the need to enhance the quality of life of air warriors.
"I am sure that with the first phase of Air Force Married Accommodation project nearing completion, the hardships being faced by some families of Air Force personnel will be reduced to quite an extent," he added.
The four-day conference would focus on - 'Optimisation of Weapons' and would have the Commanders carry out review on issues relating to operations, infrastructure development and capability enhancement, personnel, training, aviation safety, maintenance and administration.
The conference is also scheduled to have Army chief General V K Singh, and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, besides other distinguished guests to interact with the Commanders.