Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa on Thursday (31 January 2019) slammed the repeated delays and problems in the domestic manufacture of military aircraft by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), while reiterating the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) commitment to increasing indigenisation.

“IAF has not shifted any goal posts as alleged. The development has taken such an incredibly long time that armament and technology has gone obsolete… I as the service chief can make concessions to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Will the enemy make concessions to me when I go and meet the enemy?” stated Dhanoa at the 10th Jumbo Majumdar international lecture.

Dhanoa’s remarks come in the wake of recent reports claiming that the IAF had contributed to production delays by changing the parameters for new units of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas.

The air force is currently awaiting delivery of 40 LCA Mk-I fighters and has issued a Request For Proposal (RFP) for 83 LCA Mk-IA variants. It wants to eventually induct 12 squadrons of LCA Mk-II.

The air chief also spoke of the human sacrifice from the side of the IAF in testing indigenous aircraft, stating, “We have lost 17 pilots and engineers in air accidents during testing and evaluation of the indigenous Marut, Kiran, Ajeet, Saras and early warning prototype aircraft.”

He also noted that there needs to be a mix of high, medium and low technology to develop air power properly. He explained that fighters like the Rafale combined with the S-400 defence system would be able to shape air battles, enabling other aircraft to carry on their functions.