Chief of the Air Staff

India Strategic - - CONTENTS - By Gul­shan Luthra and Air Mar­shal VK Jimmy Bhatia (Retd)

The In­dian Air Force marks its 84th An­niver­sary this Oc­to­ber 8, with the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Mar­shal Arup Raha, say­ing that IAF is look­ing for­ward to in­crease its com­bat strength.

He dis­closed that the Govern­ment is con­sid­er­ing the Make in In­dia of­fers from the US Boe­ing for F/A 18 Su­per Hor­net, Lock­heed Martin for its F-16 (Block 70) and Swedish Saab for Gripen. IAF is also open to of­fers for more Rafales as well as Eurofight­ers but un­der the Make in In­dia pro­gramme of the Govern­ment. He agreed that IAF needed an­other man­u­fac­tur­ing line be­sides that of HAL’s Light Com­bat Air­craft (LCA) to make up for the de­plet­ing num­ber of its squadrons.

IAF is happy though at the Rafale deal, he ob­served point­ing out that the air­craft will be equipped with the best of tech­nolo­gies.

He said there had been some de­lays but up­grade of the Jaguar with new en­gines and avion­ics is likely to be fi­nalised soon. The MiG-29 and Mi­rage 2000 are al­ready on up­grades.

He said that the re­quire­ment of midair re­fu­el­ers is be­ing con­sid­ered afresh, but gave no de­tails if the com­pe­ti­tion will be re­stricted to Air­bus whose A300MRTT had been se­lected ear­lier or is also open to Boe­ing, which has mean­while come up with a new tanker. As for more AWACS, he said, IAF will con­tinue to use IL-76 based plat­forms. The Brazil­ian Em­braer, which is be­ing fit­ted with AEW ca­pa­bil­ity by DRDO, will also con­tinue to be used.

A beam­ing Air Chief Mar­shal Raha had this to say in an in­ter­view with In­dia Strate­gic:

The key to build and main­tain an air power is pe­ri­odic re­newal of in­ven­tory. Un­for­tu­nately, af­ter the al­le­ga­tions over Bo­fors ac­qui­si­tion for the Army in 1986, this process was stalled for the In­dian armed forces. Base­less al­le­ga­tions erupt even now as and when the Army, Navy or Air Force is on the verge of vi­tal de­ci­sions, thereby hurt­ing the three Ser­vices. There seems to be a trend now to ac­quire di­rect from

a man­u­fac­turer un­der govern­ment-to-govern­ment (g-to-g) deals, and the RM has also in­di­cated this as a pref­er­ence. As the Chair­man Chiefs of Staff Com­mit­tee, how do you nav­i­gate and co­or­di­nate this process for the armed forces?

All pro­cure­ment schemes in the armed forces are pro­gressed as per the De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure, for­mu­lated by the Govt of In­dia. The DPP gets fine- tuned reg­u­larly, the lat­est be­ing DPP- 2016, to en­sure that the en­tire’ process’ is ‘out­come’ ori­ented. The em­pha­sis is on meet­ing op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments and at times it may in­volve g- to- g route. High­est pri­or­ity is be­ing given to equip­ment that is de­signed, de­vel­oped and man­u­fac­tured in­dige­nously. Equip­ment which can­not be de­vel­oped in­dige­nously is be­ing pro­cured from abroad, fol­low­ing the spec­i­fied pro­ce­dure. It has been IAF’s en­deav­our to pro­cure equip­ment through multi-ven­dor bid­ding as it en­cour­ages com­pe­ti­tion and en­sures that the right equip­ment is pro­cured at op­ti­mum cost. How­ever, there have been cases

wherein, due to the pro­pri­etary na­ture of equip­ment or equip­ment hav­ing a par­tic­u­lar niche tech­nol­ogy and also to meet cer­tain op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments; the Govern­ment has cho­sen the g-to-g route to en­sure that crit­i­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties are ac­quired.

IAF has in fact over­come sev­eral chal­lenges in the past few years, par­tic­u­larly in the trans­port do­main with the ac­qui­si­tion of Boe­ing C-17 and Lock­heed Martin C-130J air­craft. Although very ca­pa­ble, their num­bers are few. How­ever, and IAF needs to do some­thing about the large num­ber of An-32 air­craft, which are at the end of their lives. The agree­ment with Rus­sia for MTA doesn’t seem to be ma­tur­ing. Your com­ments please, in­clud­ing on the Tata-Air­bus ven­ture for C-295 tur­bo­props?

De­lib­er­a­tions on re­place­ment of An32 air­craft are al­ready un­der progress. There were cer­tain ob­ser­va­tions on the de­sign of the MTA and the project is un­der re­view. The field eval­u­a­tion tri­als of Avro re­place­ment air­craft have been

The IL-76 has served us well and so has the An-32 since 1980s. They have gone through up­grades but are still at the end of their lives. We are sure the An-32 which re­cently crashed in the Bay of Ben­gal was air­wor­thy, but there are ques­tions in the public mind over the old in­ven­tory with the Ser­vices gen­er­ally, and the air­craft par­tic­u­larly. Trans­port air­craft are the back­bone of the Air Force and as vi­tal for the coun­try as the fight­ing units are. Your com­ments please?

An-32 air­craft has been an ex­tremely re­li­able air­craft and has been the work­horse of the IAF trans­port fleet. They have per­formed ex­cep­tion­ally well in tac­ti­cal air­lift op­er­a­tions. IAF’s An-32 fleet is presently un­der­go­ing a mid-life up­grade pro­gramme. The up­grade for the first 40 air­craft was un­der­taken in Ukraine from 2011 on­wards. The re­main­ing air­craft are be­ing up­graded in In­dia. The up­graded An-32 air­craft will con­tinue to be ex­ploited by the IAF to their full ser­vice life.

Any lat­est up­dates on the ill­fated An- 32 air­craft!?

A co-or­di­nated air-sea search and res­cue oper­a­tion in­volv­ing as­sets from IAF, Navy, Coast Guard and Avi­a­tion Re­search Cen­tre was launched on July 22, 2016 for the miss­ing An-32 air­craft. Data from satel­lites was also utilised for the search op­er­a­tions. In­puts from In­dian Na­tional Cen­tre for Ocean In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices were utilised by the In­dian Navy to up­date the search area. For sub- sur­face search, IN sub­marines and sur­vey ship Niru­pak were em­ployed. Spe­cialised Deep Sea Re­search Ves­sels are also be­ing utilised for sea bed pro­fil­ing. All avail­able com­mer­cial ves­sels, for­eign ships and fish­ing boats have been alerted for vis­ual sight­ings of any wreck­age or de­bris over the sea for lo­cat­ing the miss­ing air­craft and the sur­vivors. Ap­prox­i­mately 280 sor­ties/ 1,275 hrs have been flown to­wards air­borne search over the sea. Un­for­tu­nately, noth­ing re­lated to the miss­ing An-32 has been found in more than two months of search. How­ever, we con­tinue to be hope­ful and the search is con­tin­u­ing with en­hanced fo­cus on sea bed search.

Fighter jets: The MMRCA com­ple­tion was scrapped in favour of a di­rect deal with France, whose Rafale was se­lected by the In­dian Air Force ( IAF). The air­craft is ex­pen­sive, and the num­ber asked for- 36- is too small. IAF had planned for 126+ 63 air­craft for the MMRCA com­pe­ti­tion in 2007. That re­quire­ment should now be touch­ing 300, as more of its ex­ist­ing air­craft are due for phase- out. Could you give an up­date on the IAF’s fighter fleet?

The Min­istry of De­fence has pre­pared a road-map for in­duc­tion of fighter air­craft in the IAF with an aim to build up to the sanc­tioned strength of 42 fighter squadrons at the ear­li­est. Var­i­ous options are be­ing con­sid­ered by MoD. To start with, the deal for pro­cure­ment of 36 Rafale air­craft has been signed and it will greatly en­hance the op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­ity of the IAF. We should re­ceive the first air­craft in 36 months time and de­liv­ery of all air­craft would be com­pleted

in 66 months. Mean­while, up­grade pro­grammes of Mi­rage-2000, MiG29 and Jaguar fleets are pro­gress­ing well. The LCA has also been in­ducted and man­u­fac­tur­ing of an­other type of Fighter air­craft un­der the ‘Make in In­dia’ ini­tia­tive is also be­ing con­sid­ered by the Govern­ment.

Num­bers and Ca­pa­bil­ity both are im­por­tant. How would you de­scribe ca­pa­bil­ity for IAF air­craft, those op­er­a­tional now and the new ones to be ac­quired. We have to keep in mind that the new gen­er­a­tion of com­bat air­craft will serve the IAF for three to four decades?

The ca­pa­bil­ity build-up in the IAF is a con­tin­u­ous process and is be­ing car­ried out through the pro­cure­ment of state- of- the- art air­craft and upgra­da­tion of legacy fleets. The in­duc­tion of re­main­ing con­tracted Su-30 MKI, LCA and Rafale air­craft, the ‘Make in In­dia’ Fighter, the FGFA and the AMCA will en­sure that the IAF trans­forms into a mod­ern and a for­mi­da­ble force. At the same time, up­grades of MiG-29, Mi­rage 2000 and Jaguar air­craft will en­sure that these air­craft con­tinue to main­tain com­bat and op­er­a­tional rel­e­vance. Sim­i­larly, in the Trans­port and He­li­copter fleets, the in­duc­tion of C-17, C-130, Apache At­tack He­li­copters and Chi­nook Heavy Lift He­li­copters will give an added boost to these fleets. IL-76 and An32 air­craft and Mi-17 he­li­copters are also be­ing up­graded with bet­ter avion­ics and sys­tems to en­hance their per­for­mance. With the in­duc­tion of Hawk-132 and Pi­la­tus PC-7 Mk- II air­craft, the IAF trainer fleet is al­ready a mod­ern and ca­pa­ble fleet.

What are the new tech­nolo­gies in terms of propul­sion, speed, stand­off at­tacks, in­tel­li­gence mis­sions, and electron­ics that you per­ceive will play de­ci­sive roles in fu­ture com­bats. And the role of EW sys­tems specif­i­cally?

We are at present on the thresh­old of ab­sorb­ing Fifth gen­er­a­tion tech­nolo­gies wherein sen­sor fu­sion, net cen­tric­ity, long range stand­off weapons, smart en­gines, stealth/ low ob­serv­able tech­nolo­gies etc will be the ba­sic tenant of any fu­ture air­borne plat­form. Ground based sen­sors and weapons will also see a quan­tum jump in sen­sor tech­nol­ogy, ranges, lethal­ity and re­dun­dancy.

EW sys­tems play an im­por­tant role and will con­tinue to do so in the fu­ture also. In the mod­ern bat­tle­field, no weapon sys­tem can sur­vive or per­form op­ti­mally with­out a com­pre­hen­sive EW suite, whether it is car­ry­ing out of­fen­sive or de­fen­sive op­er­a­tions. It is a Force En­hancer in the true sense.

Growth of IAF’s AWACS/ AEW ca­pa­bil­ity?

IAF has al­ready in­ducted IL-76 based AWACS air­craft. Presently, AEW&C air­craft based on Em­braer

plat­form are un­der de­vel­op­ment by CABS and are likely to be in­ducted shortly. Ad­di­tion­ally, AWACS are be­ing ac­quired through the in­dige­nous route with DRDO. AWACS ( In­dia) project is at the pro­posal stage. The gap be­tween the in­duc­tions of the CABS de­vel­oped AEW&C and AWACS (In­dia) has ne­ces­si­tated ac­qui­si­tion of ad­di­tional AWACS air­craft to meet op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments. These will be IL-76 based AWACS and are be­ing pro­cured un­der the re­peat pur­chase clause of the present AWACS con­tract.

As the num­ber of com­bat jet re­quire­ment is large, larger than what it was 10 years ago, for­eign man­u­fac­tur­ers, Boe­ing, Lock­heed Martin and Saab Gripen have of­fered Make in In­dia projects. They have made pre­sen­ta­tions to the Govern­ment, IAF and Me­dia. Has a se­lec­tion process be­gun? This also raises an­other ques­tion on the choice of sin­gle or twin en­gine ma­chines. Your ob­ser­va­tions on the pos­si­ble IAF pref­er­ence please. We take it that what­ever IAF buys, will con­form to the MMRCA stan­dards, and plus, laid down in 2007 RFP. Tech­nol­ogy should have changed since this due to on­board force mul­ti­pli­ers. If one is late, then tak­ing ad­van­tage of the late start is the log­i­cal choice in pick­ing up the lat­est?

Govern­ment is pre­par­ing the roadmap for in­duc­tion of fighter air­craft in the IAF in or­der to at­tain the sanc­tioned strength at the ear­li­est. Var­i­ous options are be­ing con­sid­ered for in­duc­tion through the ‘Make in In­dia’ route. Suit­able air­craft will be se­lected based on cer­tain guid­ing prin­ci­ples that will gov­ern man­u­fac­tur­ing of these air­craft in the coun­try and meet IAF’s op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments. Com­bat air­craft pro­cure­ments will be dis­trib­uted over the en­tire spec­trum of heavy, medium and light weight cat­e­gories, as well as weaponry for var­i­ous air cam­paigns and twin/sin­gle en­gine con­fig­u­ra­tions.

IAF’s de­ci­sion to ac­quire Air­bus A330 MRTT has been re­versed. That should af­fect your plans. Is IAF look­ing afresh at newer sys­tems, now that Boe­ing has also put its lat­est tankers in the mar­ket? What are the options now? We have been told ear­lier that IAF plans for 100 per cent midair re­fu­elling ca­pa­bil­ity?

The IAF has been pur­su­ing the case for ac­qui­si­tion of ad­di­tional Flight Re­fu­eller Air­craft. This case is be­ing pro­gressed based on To­tal Cost of Ac­qui­si­tion model which con­sid­ers the Life Cy­cle Costs. Var­i­ous options are be­ing con­sid­ered to en­sure that the Flight Re­fu­elling Air­craft are ac­quired at the ear­li­est with em­pha­sis on meet­ing our op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments.

He­li­copters: IAF is ac­quir­ing Chi­nook and Apache he­li­copters from the US, as also Mi-17s from Rus­sia. There are still some more re­quire­ments, like larger num­bers of these choppers, util­ity he­li­copters and VVIP re­quire­ments. Your com­ments please?

A case is un­der progress for pro­cure­ment of 200 Kamov 226 T he­li­copters from Rus­sia un­der an In­ter-Gov­ern­men­tal Agree­ment. Out of 200 he­li­copters, 140 would be co­pro­duced by a Joint Ven­ture be­tween the Rus­sian com­pa­nies and HAL. 65 out of the 200 he­li­copters will be in­ducted in the IAF. Sub­se­quently, based on the suc­cess of 2-3 Tonne class in­dige­nous LUH be­ing de­signed and de­vel­oped by HAL, bal­ance re­quire­ment of he­li­copters in the Light Util­ity cat­e­gory will be pro­gressed. Both these he­li­copters are planned to re­place Chee­tah and Chetak fleets

of the IAF. At present, Mi-17 V5 he­li­copters are be­ing utilised to meet VVIP re­quire­ments.

MAFI: This project has been there for some time. Your com­ments on progress please?

Phase- I of Mod­erni­sa­tion of Air­field In­fra­struc­ture Project, which cov­ers a ma­jor­ity of IAF’s air­fields, has made good progress and will be com­pleted shortly. There­after, the re­main­ing air­fields would be taken up for mod­erni­sa­tion. The in­fra­struc­ture at the air­fields has seen an ex­ten­sive up­grade as part of the project and this project has greatly en­hanced IAF’s op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­ity.

Make in In­dia, Off­sets and Tech­nol­ogy Trans­fer: These are im­per­a­tive pa­ram­e­ters now in ac­qui­si­tion and mod­erni­sa­tion. You com­ments on how IAF is im­ple­ment­ing these el­e­ments?

In an ef­fort to strengthen the in­dige­nous de­fence pro­duc­tion base, the Govern­ment has put in place a De­fence Pro­duc­tion Pol­icy which en­deav­ours to en­hance the de­fence R & D base of the coun­try. The DPP2016 in­cludes sev­eral ini­tia­tives to en­cour­age lo­cal R & D and in­crease in in­dige­nous con­tent in de­fence pro­cure­ment. The ‘Make’ pro­ce­dure of DPP- 2016 seeks to ad­dress the mul­ti­ple ob­jec­tives of self- re­liance, wider par­tic­i­pa­tion of In­dian in­dus­try, im­pe­tus to MSME sec­tor, sound im­ple­men­ta­tion, trans­par­ent ex­e­cu­tion and timely in­duc­tion of equip­ment into the In­dian Armed Forces.

IAF has al­ways en­cour­aged de­vel­op­ment of in­dige­nous de­fence pro­duc­tion ca­pa­bil­ity and ca­pac­i­ties. IAF firmly be­lieves that in­di­geni­sa­tion pro­vides flex­i­bil­ity by re­duc­ing de­pen­dence on ex­ter­nal agen­cies and leads to eco­nomic growth of the na­tion and it is the only way to have true strate­gic au­ton­omy. The IAF has been at the fore­front in in­duct­ing in­dige­nously man­u­fac­tured weapon plat­forms and sys­tems. The for­ma­tion of the first LCA squadron in Ban­ga­lore and the sub­stan­tial or­der for LCA air­craft are tes­ti­mony to the im­por­tance that the IAF places on self- re­liance. A num­ber of in­dige­nously de­vel­oped and man­u­fac­tured air­craft, he­li­copters, radars, mis­siles and elec­tronic equip­ment have been in­ducted or are in the process of be­ing in­ducted. Projects like AEW&C, AWACS (In­dia), IACCS, Akash SAGW & As­tra Mis­sile are be­ing fully sup­ported by the IAF.

IAF has re­cently con­ducted a num­ber of sem­i­nars to foster greater in­ter­ac­tion with the de­fence in­dus­try. To have greater clar­ity in the in­dus­try so that it can map its ca­pa­bil­i­ties and po­ten­tial with the re­quire­ments of the IAF, the ‘In­di­geni­sa­tion Roadmap In­dian Air Force (2015-2025)’ was re­leased by the IAF in April this year. An­other sem­i­nar was con­ducted in Lucknow in Septem­ber 2016 to en­cour­age par­tic­i­pa­tion by MSMEs.

IAF needs to be com­mended for the ex­tra­or­di­nary HADR op­er­a­tions un­der­taken by it. How­ever, are there are any lessons to be drawn from these? In the same con­text and to fur­ther build on its strate­gic/ tac­ti­cal air­lift ca­pa­bil­i­ties, is the IAF think­ing of ac­quir­ing more air­craft like the C-130J? Sev­eral IAF of­fi­cers seem to favour de­ploy­ment of this air­craft even for ferry flights to A&N and other is­lands, par­tic­u­larly af­ter the re­cent loss of an An-32?

IAF has in­deed per­formed com­mend­ably in all HADR re­lated mis­sions not only within the coun­try, but abroad also. Lessons drawn dur­ing var­i­ous HADR op­er­a­tions are con­stantly re­viewed. Also, HADR Ta­ble Top exercises are be­ing planned ev­ery year by the three Ser­vices for bet­ter in­te­gra­tion of NDMA, Civic func­tionar­ies and the Armed Forces at the field level. IAF is ac­quir­ing ad­di­tional C-130J air­craft. How­ever, C-130J is a Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions air­craft with heavy op­er­a­tional and training task; it there­fore may not be avail­able for rou­tine air­lift or courier op­er­a­tions.

Could you give an up­date on the LCA Mk I/Mk II pro­gramme? Will Te­jas be able to come up to IAF’s ex­pec­ta­tions? HAL Chair­man has told us that new ver­sion will have an AESA radar and some key elec­tronic sys­tems in ac­cor­dance with IAF re­quire­ments?

The first squadron of LCA was formed on July 1, 2016. This is a sig­nif­i­cant step to­wards in­dige­nous ca­pa­bil­ity build­ing. How­ever, it will still take some more time be­fore these air­craft are op­er­a­tionalised in IAF with their full ca­pa­bil­i­ties. IAF will be car­ry­ing out ex­ten­sive fly­ing on these air­craft in or­der to ex­ploit their en­tire en­velop for op­ti­mis­ing their roles and tasks. I am con­fi­dent that the LCA Mk 1A which would have en­hanced ca­pa­bil­i­ties, would be able to meet the re­quire­ments of the IAF.

com­pleted. The case is pro­gress­ing well and the con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions are likely to com­mence soon. The C-295 MW air­craft is a 5-10 Tonne class air­craft. The OEM will sup­ply the ini­tial batch of air­craft and the re­main­ing will be man­u­fac­tured in In­dia.

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