The IAF is likely to add MI-17 V5 medium lift helicopters in its fleet as negotiations to procure them from Russia are in final stages, a senior Indian air Force official said.
"Our negotiations are in the final stages with Russia. In the next 3 months, we will sign a contract with them. After 2-3 years of signing of the contract, we will start the procurement of these helicopters," Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Maintenance Command, Air Marshal Gautam Nayyar told reporters.
These would replace MI-8 helicopters, which have outlived their life, he said, adding once these machines are procured, they will help tide over the problems faced by helicopters in high altitudes of Siachin and Ladhak.
He said the MI-17V5 will have modern avionic equipment and their engine performance will be better than the existing helicopters.
"They will be very effective in the high altitude areas. MI-17V5 will gradually replace the MI-8 helicopters of IAF," he said, adding at present "we have 50 MI-8 and their estimated life span is 35 years. However, they all are 38 years old and we will replace them with 80 MI-17V5."
To a question, he said in India there are 13 Base Repair Depots (BRDs) that look after the maintenance of air crafts and other related equipment and Rs 500 crore would be pumped in over the next few years for their upgradation and modernisation.
To another question, Nayyar admitted that IAF was not getting enough quality engineers as IIT graduates are not forthcoming. But he hoped that with the implementation of the sixth pay commission, things would change and graduates from premier institutions would choose IAF as a career.
He also said that the IAF was also planning to open a Rs-200 crore world class engineering college in Bangalore.