India must modernise air force to match capabilities of adversaries: BS Dhanoa
IAF chief advocates advanced aircraft like Rafale to win high-end fights
AIR Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said on Wednesday that China was significantly ramping up its air power including deploying fighter jets in Tibet and India must modernise its air force to match the capabilities of its “adversaries”. India was facing a unique situation of having two nuclear armed neighbours — China and Pakistan — on its borders and the intentions of the adversaries could change overnight, he said.
Delivering a lecture on IAF’s force structure, he said the capability of the force needs to be enhanced in sync with security challenges facing the nation. The IAF chief said though India was facing a grave security threat, its combat squadron has come down to 31 from sanctioned strength of 42 which is a matter of concern. Each fighter squadron has 16-18 aircraft.
“China has approximately 1,700 fighter aircraft of which 800 are fourth generation jets. A large number of these can be expected to be brought against us in the Tibet Autonomous Region in case of hostilities,” he said. “Indian armed forces are operating in a unique environment. Presently, there are very few countries which are facing security challenges as grave as ours,” he said, referring to threats from Pakistan and China. “India’s neighbours are not sitting idle .... We have a unique situation of having two nuclear armed neighbours on our borders. No other country in the world has this kind of a situation,” he said.
The Air Chief Marshal said China has significantly developed and upgraded infrastructure in Tibet Autonomous Region and that fighter jets and surveillance jets have been permanently stationed in airfields in the area bordering India.
“We have to match the force level of our adversaries so that we can fight simultaneously on two fronts,” he said, referring to possible scenario of engagements with China and Pakistan simultaneously. He said the IAF must have adequate number of fighter jets to deal with any security challenge. “What we do not have is the numbers. Against the sanctioned strength of 42 squadron, we are down to 31. Even if we have 42, it will be well below the combined strength of two of our adversaries,” he said.
He said both China and Pakistan were replacing their second and third generation fighter jets with fourth generation aircraft, adding India needs to urgently upgrade its combat squadrons to effectively face any challenge. We need the numbers to carry out full spectrum operation... we need a force that can quickly respond, cause devastating damage to the other side and get us peace on our terms,” he said.
Emphasising the need for procurement of advanced aircraft like Rafale, he said, “We cannot have an air force of medium technology platforms. We need to have fighters which will win high end fights. In a conventional warfare winning the air battle is very important.”
The Air Chief’s comments come a day after former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan in a press conference on Tuesday alleged that the government is using the senior army brass to defend the Rafale deal. “The PM is personally culpable in the Rafale scam. They are making the Vice Chief of Air Force to lie. The Air Force never said before April 10, 2015, that buy 36 aircraft or India-specific add-ons. By making them lie the morale of the air force is being finished,” they had alleged.
Last week Air Marshal Deo had called Rafale a “beautiful” aircraft and said those criticising the deal must understand the procurement norms. Deputy Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Raghunath Nambiar has also countered allegations of any wrongdoing in the deal.