Thursday, December 27, 2007

IAF to induct indigenous Akash missile

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is to induct a squadron-strength of the Akash surface-to-air missile but is unclear about the eventual numbers of the indigenously developed system it will operate.

"We will soon begin the process of inducting the Akash," IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major told reporters on the sidelines of a function here where he installed a time capsule relating to the just concluded platinum jubilee celebrations of the force.

"The user trials have just concluded. We are awaiting the report on this, after which we shall initiate the process of inducting a squadron-strength of the missile," Major said.

Squadron strength means the IAF would initially deploy 16 to 18 batteries of the missile that can engage targets at a height of 25 km.

At the same time, Major refused to commit himself to the eventual numbers of the missile the IAF would deploy, indicating he was not too happy with the system that has been in development for almost two decades.

In fact, delays in operationalising the Akash last year prompted the IAF to order the Israeli Spyder missile to plug gaps in its armoury.

The IAF completed the final user trials of the Akash earlier this month with the missile successively scoring a bull's eye on five occasions spread over 10 days.

Major said the IAF was in the process of completing price negotiations for 80 additional Mi-17-1V medium lift helicopters of the kind it already operates, as also six C-130J Super Hercules heavy lift transport aircraft.

"The process is on for both aircraft," the IAF chief said.

The time capsule installed on Wednesday builds on the ones installed in 1982 and 1992 to respectively mark the golden and diamond jubilees of the IAF. All three capsules will be opened in 2032 in the centenary year of the force.

It contains both digital and hard copy versions of the IAF's activities in the past 15 years in a pressurised nitrogen environment encased in a stainless steel shell.

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