In­dia must mod­ernise air force to match ca­pa­bil­i­ties of ad­ver­saries: BS Dhanoa

IAF chief ad­vo­cates ad­vanced air­craft like Rafale to win high-end fights

Financial Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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