Kalaikunda: The Indian Air Force (IAF) is upgrading its capabilities in the northeastern region of the country by revamping eight advance landing grounds and improving major airfields, Air Chief Marshal PV Naik said late Tuesday.
"We are going for composite upgradation of capabilities in the northeast. It should have been done a long time ago. Eight advance landing grounds are being upgraded and there are five to six major airfields where infrastructure will be improved to enable them to receive more modern aircraft," Naik said here, some 140 km from Kolkata.
The air capabilities in the country`s northern part will be upgraded next, the air chief said.
"A lot of things have happened on ground," Naik said while briefing the media about the ongoing India-Britain joint air exercise.
The India-Britain joint air exercise, `Indradhanush`, began Oct 18 at Kalaikunda air base in West Bengal`s West Midnapore district, and will continue till Nov 3.
An empowered committee, headed by IAF Vice Chief Air Marshal P.K. Barbora, was overseeing the project.
Naik also said that the mark-II version of the indigenous state-of-the-art light combat aircraft (LCA) should be operational in the next two-three years after the process of selecting better engines was completed.
"LCA has taken a long way to come to the stage where it is now. By the middle of the next year, LCA Mark-I will be inducted into the operationalised squadrons. At the same time, the process of selection of engine for LCA Mark-II is nearing completion," he said.
"The next joint air exercise will be held in the UK after two years if all goes according to plan," said Naik.
"There is already a deal for procuring 50 Hawk aircraft form Britain which will be used for training," he said, adding the aircraft will be introduced at Bidar in Karnataka.
With the IAF now running short of 300-400 pilots, the intake process has been expanded and would be completed within next three-four years, he said.
"By the time the equipment (IAF will induct 126 fighter planes by 2012) starts arriving, we shall be ready to man the squadrons," the IAF chief said.
Asked about the IAF`s role in anti-Maoist operation, he said: "Four aircraft are already engaged in the operation for the last six months. They are operating in Dantewada and Jagdalpur areas."
"The helicopters are under the operational control of the home ministry. We have no say in the matter," he said.
In the third edition of the joint exercise with the Royal Air Force (RAF), the IAF chief himself flew in the newly acquired Airborne Warning and Control system (AWACS), the on-air Radar system, that was used in an exercise for the first time in India. His British counterpart, Air Vice Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, flew in a Sukhoi Su-30 aircraft.