The ministry of defence (MoD) has recently signed a Rs 1,200-crore contract with Tata Power (strategic engineering division), or TPSED, for modernising 37 air bases belonging to the Indian Air Force (IAF), navy, coast guard and two for the home ministry.
The deal, Modernisation of Air Field Infrastructure Phase 2 (MAFI-2), follows from an earlier contract, called MAFI-1, which TPSED won in 2011 to upgrade 30 IAF airfields. That contract has been successfully discharged.
The Rs 2,500 crore MAFI-1 project was globally tendered, but won by TPSED in the face of stiff competition from the world’s most advanced electronics vendors.
“The (MAFI) project is a turnkey project that includes installation and commissioning of modern airfield equipment like Cat-II Instrument Landing System (ILS) and Cat II Air Field Lightning System (AFLS), among others. The modern equipment around the airfield will also be directly connected to the air traffic control (ATC), thereby providing excellent control of the airfield systems to the air traffic controllers,” stated the MoD.
This upgrade of navigational aids and infrastructure allows air operations by military and civil aircraft even in poor visibility and adverse weather conditions, while also enhancing flight safety.
The 30 air bases already modernised under MAFI-1, include eight along the Sino-Indian border. Their upgraded infrastructure now allows aircraft to take off and land in visibility as low as 300 metres.
This could generate crucial combat air support for ground forces battling in bad weather conditions.
Only major commercial airfields provide better facilities than what MAFI offers. The Category III ILS in airports like Delhi can guide aircraft to land in zero visibility.
The IAF’s and navy’s new aircraft C-130J Super Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III, Sukhoi-30MKI, MiG-29K and the Rafale (when it enters service) would be able to utilise the full potential of MAFI. Older aircraft like the MiG-21s don’t have on-board electronics needed for utilising MAFI instrumentation. The MAFI upgrade will be good news also for commercial air operations, when they resume after the Covid-19 lockdown.
Commercial flights operate from some 30 IAF and navy air bases, including Chandigarh, Goa, Leh and Srinagar.
The pace of work under MAFI is constrained by the fact that only 5-6 operational air force bases can be out of action at any give time. Only when work on these is completed, can TPSED begin working on a fresh batch of air bases.
“The contract will provide an impetus to the domestic industry in the prevailing situation. The project will give a boost to over 250 micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which will directly be benefited from being involved in execution of various activities of this project.
This contract will aid in infusing the much-needed capital in the market and boost employment generation in fields such as communications, avionics, information technology, apart from civil and electrical equipment and construction,” stated the MoD.