New Delhi:  A fly-past by vintage Tiger Moth aircraft was the main attraction at the Air Force Day parade in the national capital on Monday in absence of aerobatic display by the grounded Suryakiran planes and Sarang helicopter squad.

On the 80th anniversary of IAF, the 1930s Tiger Moth biplane, the first resurrected aircraft of the vintage squadron of the force, was the only new addition to the flying display team for the event.

As soon as the yellow-coloured aircraft, which saw action during World War II, took off, it was welcomed by a thunderous applause from the gathering which included families of air warriors and school children.

IAF is planning to resurrect around six old aircraft for the vintage squadron that will include a Wapiti, Howard, Spitfire and three other planes.

The indigenously-developed Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft (AEW&C) along with the Russian-origin Mi-17 V5 choppers were showcased for the first time as part of the static display.

The aerobatics were curtailed due to the grounding of the Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team (SKAT) as its Kiran Mk-II aircraft are now being used for training rookie pilots.

The Sarang helicopter display team, which comprises four ALH Dhruv choppers, also did not take part in the display.

"Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is adding some safety features in all the Dhruv choppers and that is why they are not here. In next two months, they will start aerobatic practice," IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne told reporters here.

IAF is in the process of raising a new aerobatic display team with Advanced Jet Trainer 'Hawk' aircraft and a 'request for proposal' (RFP) has already been issued to the British BAE systems for supplying 20 new planes for the purpose, he said.

The other aircraft which took part in the aerial display included the frontline Su-30MKI, Mirage 2000, Jaguar, MiG 21s and C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft.

On the new aerobatic team being formed by IAF, Browne said the government has given approval for procuring 20 new Hawk AJT aircraft for the purpose and it is expected that by the end of next year, the team will start practicing.

He said IAF was also considering whether to find a new name for the aerobatic display team or retain the old one. On the increasing role of women pilot in the force, Browne said 55 women pilots were engaged in flying helicopters such as Cheetah, Chetak and the Mi-8 and transport aircraft like the Ilyushin-76 and An-32.

He, however, said there was no woman pilot flying attack choppers such as the Mi-35. Addressing the parade, the IAF Chief said the situation in country's neighbourhood was a matter of serious concern.

"The present times are both interesting and challenging. The deteriorating security situation in the neighbourhood and its frequent violent manifestations are a matter of serious concern to us," he said.

Browne said, "The need of the hour is to be ever-vigilant and prepared."

On the phasing out of combat aircraft such as the MiG 21 and MiG 23 from service, Browne said, "Despite the phasing out of the legacy aircraft, we continue to maintain very high combat potential through the raising of new Su-30MKI squadrons." The next squadron will be raised by December, he said.

IAF is planning to raise 14 squadrons of the Su-30MKI fighter jets and is planning to deploy them at several places in its Eastern, Southern and South-Western command areas. The mid-life upgrade of aircraft such as the Mirage 2000 and Jaguar will enhance their capabilities and "add punch to the country's air power," he said.

On the proposed induction of new aircraft, he said the AW-101 aircraft from Italy for ferrying VVIPs were expected to be inducted by next year along with Pilatus basic jet trainers from Switzerland.


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