India’s ambitious project to develop indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) has suffered a setback as the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) for the aircraft was delayed by another year.
“As far as LCA is concerned, there was an initial IOC in January this year. We were supposed to get the IOC (final) by the end of this year. As we see it, there is a delay of almost an year in that,” IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne told a press conference.
The delay in IOC is expected to further affect the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) of the aircraft, which was expected by 2012.
Sources said the delay in IOC has taken place as the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has not been able to complete certain trials of the aircraft.
The extended monsoon this year also affected the trial schedule of the aircraft, they said.
Replying to a question on upgradation of the fleet of Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft, Browne said the case is being studied by the Finance Ministry and a final nod by the government is expected by the end of this month.
“We have finished the negotiations for the MICA missile for the aircraft and the case is now with the Finance Ministry. If not this month, it should get cleared next month at least,” he said.
On procurement of simulators for fighter and transport aircraft, the Air Chief said simulators have been part of all recent and fresh acquisitions.
“As far as simulators as concerned, let me assure you that for all our new acquisitions, the simulator package is the part of the process itself, including M-MRCA,” he said.
While the simulators for Su-30 MKI fighter jets have become operational at three centers, the same for C-130J transport aircraft are expected to be delivered by next month.
“The simulators for C-130J are coming next month and the Su-30 MKI simulators are already functional at Pune, Bareilly and Tezpur,” he said.
Browne said simulators would also be the part of future acquisitions like basic jet trainers.
“For each new induction which we will have in IAF, we will have a dedicated simulator. Same goes for the helicopters and the basic trainer aircraft Pilatus. For HAWK, simulator flying is part of the training stage,” he said.
Replying to a query on M-MRCA as whether IAF will get more funds from the government in view of the high costs of both the shortlisted aircraft, Browne said “money is not an issue.”
Talking about the next step in acquistion of M-MRCA, Browne said, “the meeting of Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) will take place on October 7 and we are hopeful that the final bids would be opened by the third or four week of this month.”
On participation of IAF in anti-Naxal operations, he said Air Force will deploy two more choppers for supporting Central Para Military Forces (CPMF).
“Two more choppers will be deployed at Ranchi in Jharkhand for anti-Naxal operations in addition to the four which have been deployed at Jagdalpur and Raipur,” he said.
Replying to a query on declaration of assets by the Chiefs of three services in today’s scenario of anti-graft movements by people, Browne said they have always been doing so.