The Indian Air Force on Thursday indicated that the ageing fleet of its fighter planes was a matter of concern and hoped that the massive deal for purchase of 126 multi-role combat aircraft would come through.
"A number of older generation aircraft like MiG-21 are operating since early sixties. We have problems with the ageing fleets and their maintenance," Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Indian Air Force's (IAF) Eastern Air Command, Air Marshal Kishan Kumar Nohwar told a press conference in Shillong.
The Soviet-era MiG 21 fighters have been in operation in the IAF since 1963 and have been involved in a spate of crashes in the recent years.
Under the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) programme, IAF plans to induct 126 fighter jets at an estimated cost of $12 billion. Currently, trials are being conducted with aircraft of six manufacturers vying for the deal.
Besides Sukhois, Nohwar said once the MMRCA deal is through, IAF Force would deploy some of the squadrons in the Eastern sector.
Nowhar said when a country has newer aircraft, the percentage of share of human error is more than technical defect. "Presently, the ratio is tilted more towards technical defects," he said in the backdrop of frequent fighter jet crashes in the recent times.
Nohwar said it was to he credit of IAF that the ageing aircraft, particularly MiG-21s, were being maintained in "flight-worthy condition and were ready to face challenge".
"We have the technical capability to thwart any attack from any quarter. The old fleets are being replaced with newer aircraft," he said.