Howard Gethin/LONDON

India's defence industry has been urged to place more emphasis on upgrading existing aircraft for the air force because of the rising procurement costs of new types, by Deputy Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Hussain Naqvi.

Naqvi's comment, in a speech at the Advanced Systems Integration and Evaluation Organisation foundation day celebrations, highlights the Indian air force's need to field more advanced aircraft in the face of lengthening delays to the country's principal combat aircraft programme, the Light Combat Aircraft, as well as deliveries of the Sukhoi Su-30MKI.

Quoting the example of the MiG-21bis upgrade programme, carried out by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) and Russia's Sokol aircraft plant, Navqi says a similar programme may be required for the MiG-23, MiG-25, MiG-27 and MiG-29 fleets.

The appeal follows an offer from MAPO of an SMT standard upgrade for India's MiG-29 fleet during the Aero India show in December last year. India is already planning an upgrade for the MiG-27, which was produced under licence by HAL as the Bahadur.

Although the exact nature of the upgrade is as yet undecided and is likely to be incremental, the air force is believed to have taken delivery of a number of Vinten reconnaissance pods for the aircraft and is evaluating a new laser rangefinder.

Night vision compatible avionics, a cockpit with two multifunction displays, a new head-up display, cartridge data loading and an air refuelling capability were also shown on a MiG-27 upgrade display at the Aero India show.

Naqvi also criticised the time taken to bring many projects to fruition, and the reliability of systems produced by India's Defence Research Development Organisation. "Our metallurgy needs to be improved and systems need to be reliable and failsafe," he says, adding that the issue needed to be addressed to stop the forces shopping overseas. Naqvi also emphasised the need for unmanned air vehicles and laser-guided weapons as areas of future importance for the Indian forces.

Source: Flight International