NEW DELHI: The Indian Air Force needs to further enhance its operational capabilities and improve serviceability of its mission critical systems, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said on Thursday, at a time when the force is on high alert due to escalating tension with China.
In his inaugural speech at the two-day conference of Senior Air Staff Officers (SASOs), the chief highlighted the need for sustenance of existing fleets and optimum operational exploitation of new inductions in order to make the Indian Air Force (IAF) a formidable combat force.
The Indian and Chinese armies are locked in a bitter stand-off in multiple locations in eastern Ladakh for the last seven weeks.
The tension escalated manifold after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a violent clash in Galwan Valley on June 15.
The Chinese side also suffered casualties but it is yet to give out the details.
"The CAS (Chief of the Air Staff) while addressing the SASOs emphasised the need for further enhancing our operational capabilities as well as improving serviceability of mission critical systems," a press release by the IAF said.
He also appreciated the operational readiness of IAF Commands and subordinate formations, it said.
Moreover, Bhadauria commended the effort put in towards "integrated training of air warriors of all streams" to meet the present and future operational requirements.
"The bi-annual conference of Senior Air Staff Officers is being held on Thursday and Friday, wherein pointed discussions would take place towards operational capability enhancements, focused training to tackle contemporary challenges with available assets and automation efforts in the IAF," the release stated.
The conference was conducted through video conferencing, in a first-of-its-kind effort, in the backdrop of the prevailing security environment and COVID-19 pandemic, the IAF said.
Meanwhile, the defence ministry on Thursday approved procurement of 33 frontline fighter jets, a number of missile systems and other military hardware at a cost of Rs 38,900 crore to bolster the combat capability of the armed forces, officials said.
They said 21 MiG-29 fighter jets will be procured from Russia, while 12 Su-30 MKI aircraft will be bought from state-run aerospace behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).
A separate proposal to upgrade existing 59 MiG-29 aircraft has also been approved.
The ministry has also approved procurement of 248 ASTRA beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missile systems.
The missile is designed to engage and destroy highly maneuvering supersonic aircraft and has all weather day and night capability, the officials said.
Following the Galwan Valley clashes, the Army has sent thousands of additional troops to forward locations along the border besides moving in heavy weapons.
The IAF has also moved air defence systems as well as a sizeable number of its frontline combat jets and attack helicopters to several key airbases.