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December 26, 2001
0914 IST

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India's missile system in position: Fernandes

Sujit Chatterjee and V S Chandrasekar in New Delhi

India's missile systems are 'in position' even as the army's training exercises will be held as scheduled in Rajasthan and Punjab in the first half of January, Defence Minister George Fernandes has said.

Asked if there was a possibility of a change in the schedule for exercises in view of the Pakistani military build-up, Fernandes said, "There has been no talk of change of schedule. They will be routine exercises."

To a question on missile deployment, the minister declined to go into details and only said that 'missile systems are in position'.

"At the moment, we are concentrating on Agni-II ballistic missile (with a range of nearly 2500 km). We do not have any plans now for a longer-range missile," he told Press Trust of India in an interview.

Pakistani media reports have stated that missiles directed against India have been put on alert.

Pakistan is reportedly in possession of Chinese-made M-11 and M-9 missiles with strike ranges varying from 600 to 750 km, Ghauri I and II (1150-1500 kms) and Shaheen-II (2500 km).

India has 150-km range Prithvi-I, which is being managed by 333 Missile Group based in Secunderabad besides Agni-II.

Both these missiles can be fired from mobile launchers. While certain other missiles are in developmental stages, India also possesses medium-range missiles of Russian origin.

Replying to a question, Fernandes said Agni-II had not been deployed.

On acquisition of the Advanced Jet Trainer (for giving advanced training to fighter aircraft pilots, Fernandes said, "There is no forward movement despite my best efforts. Price fixation issue on AJT Hawk manufactured by British Aerospace has not yet been firmly clinched.

"We are very keen to get the AJT soon," he said.

Purchase of AJTs has been hanging fire since 1984. At present, British Aerospace is the only vendor as French firm Dassault has stopped production of Alpha Jets, he said adding AJT was urgently needed by the airforce in view of crashes and deaths of pilots.

"Our training is suffering a great deal and we are also losing lives," the minister said.

"Obstruction to the acquisition of AJT by whosoever can only help India's enemies," he said.

In the meantime, Fernandes said mid-life upgradation of certain fighter planes in IAF's inventory was taking place.

Asked about the delay in acquisition programme of Russian-made multi-role warplane Sukhoi-30, several of which were already there with the IAF, he said, "Now the issue has been sorted out and the problem overcome."

On the purchase of sophisticated Russian T-90 tanks, the minister said a batch of 20 was expected to arrive in a fully assembled condition by the month end.

The tanks would be later produced in India under licence, he said.

Fernandes said the second technology demonstrator of India's Light Combat Aircraft would be test-flown soon with its trials and other tests nearing completion.

"LCA has now proved itself as a flying machine," he said.

The first technology demonstrator of LCA was test flown in January this year. He also termed India's Advanced Light Helicopter as one of the finest machines of its kind in the world having versions for the Army, Navy and Air Force apart from the civilian one.

Maintaining that India required at least two aircraft carriers -- one in the Arabian Sea and the other in the Bay of Bengal -- to protect sea lanes and shores and fight piracy, Fernandes said India 'would like to have Russian-made aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov."

Fernandes said the country was in the process of building its own version of aircraft carrier -- Air Defence Ship.

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