Air Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, Chief of the Air Staff, on Thursday, said the Indian Air Force was always prepared for challenges and better equipped than China to tackle any eventuality on the eastern front. Addressing the media at Halwara Air Force Station, where President Ram Nath Kovind presented the President’s Standard to 51 Squadron and President’s Colours to the 230 Signal Unit of the IAF, Dhanoa said the IAF was ready to face any security challenge confronting the country.
The Air Marshal had last year said that IAF was prepared to fight a war at a short notice. When asked about the defence budget, which a Parliamentary Standing Committee said was not supportive of the inevitable needs of the Army, Dhanoa glossed over the issue. “We have conveyed our budget concerns to the government,” he said.
The IAF is already down to 31 squadrons of fighter aircraft against an authorisation of 42. Talking about the operational decline in IAF fighter squadrons, the Chief of the Air Staff said, “Decline is being stopped and we have a plan to build up.” Shedding light on the stalled Aerospace Museum that was to come up near the IGI Airport in Delhi, Dhanoa said the project, mooted two years back, would start as soon as the Defence Ministry cleared the detailed project report and plan.
Dhanoa also said the IAF had no objection to the dual use of air bases for military as well as civilian purposes. “It is already being used at Jammu, Pathankot, Bathinda etc, and we have no issues if the same can be done in Halwara as well. We will work closely with each other for dual use operations. The local police will take care of security measures of commercial flights while IAF will manage their own affairs,” he said.
Dhanoa also said the Dakota, a World War II-era aircraft that played a crucial role in the 1947 Indo-Pak War, which is currently being refurbished in the UK, would join the vintage fleet at the Hindon Air Base in Uttar Pradesh by April end.