December 8, 2023

Air Force Chief updates PM about Covid relief ops; DRDO to set up 500 oxygen plants across country

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The Air Force Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria also informed the PM that “near saturation vaccination coverage has been achieved” in his force.

As the Air Force is involved in operations to transport oxygen containers across the country, and has brought more than 20 from at least three other nations, Chief of the Air Force Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria apprised Prime Minister Narendra Modi about all the efforts by the force in combating Covid-19.

Defence Ministry said that Bhadauria informed Modi that the Air Force “has ordered 24×7 readiness of the entire heavy lift fleet and substantial numbers of the medium lift fleet to operate in a hub and spoke model to rapidly meet all Covid-related tasking across the country and overseas” and the aircrew for all fleets “have been augmented to ensure round-the-clock operations”.

Bhadauria told him that the Air Force is “deploying big as well as medium-sized aircraft to cover all terrains” and mentioned that a dedicated Covid Air Support Cell has been set up to “ensure faster coordination with different ministries and agencies to Covid-related operations”. Further, Bhadauria said that hospitals under the Air Force “have increased covid facilities and also allowing civilians wherever possible”.

The Air Force Chief also informed the PM that “near saturation vaccination coverage has been achieved” in his force.

Modi, the statement said, “stressed on the need to increase the speed, scale & safety of operations in transporting oxygen tankers & other essential material” and also spoke about the importance of ensuring that the Air Force personnel involved in the operations remain safe from infection.

The Air Force has been carrying regular sorties to transport oxygen tankers since April 22, and has transported over 20 containers within the country till Monday. On Tuesday it airlifted six cryogenic oxygen containers from Dubai and three from Singapore to the Panagarh Air Base. Additionally, it also transported two containers each from Indore to Jamnagar, Jodhpur and Udaipur to Jamnagar, Hindon to Ranchi, Bhopal to Ranchi and Chandigarh to Ranchi. It also took eight containers from Hyderabad to Bhubaneshwar.

Further, two of C130 aircraft of the Singapore Airforce brought 256 oxygen cylinders to Panagarh on Wednesday.

Bhadauria’s meeting with Modi came on the same day as the Defence Ministry announced that DRDO will set up 500 Medical Oxygen Plants (MOP) in the country utilising the PM Cares Fund.

Of the 500, for 380 DRDO will place an order with two private companies, and 120 will be set up through the Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP), Dehradun, belonging to CSIR.

DRDO said that the MOP technology developed by it for On-Board Oxygen Generation for the Light Combat Aircraft “will now help in fighting the current crisis of oxygen for the COVID-19 patients” as they are designed “for a capacity of 1000 litres per minute”.

“The system caters for 190 patients at a flow rate of 5 LPM and can charge 195 cylinders per day.” DRDO said. The technology transfer has been done to Tata Advance Systems and Trident Pneumatics, both of which will together produce 380 plants for installation across various hospitals in the country.

These plants will help the hospitals avoid dependency on oxygen cylinders especially at high altitude and inaccessible remote areas, and they have already been installed at some of the Army sites in the Northeast and Leh-Ladakh regions, DRDO said.

It targets producing 125 plants per month under the PM Cares Fund, hoping that 380 Medical Oxygen Plants will be installed within three months.

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