In­dian Air Force’s 15-year war­fare ca­pa­bil­ity roadmap


In Op­er­a­tion Ra­hat, the flood re­lief mis­sion in Ut­tarak­hand, the IAF got the op­por­tu­nity to put one of its new ac­qui­si­tions, the C-130J Su­per Her­cules, to the test. In the com­ing years, the In­dian Air Force will be the most vis­i­ble face of mod­erni­sa­tion, as its as­sets are de­ployed across the gamut of na­tion build­ing and hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief op­er­a­tions. The medium multi-role com­bat air­craft (MMRCA) may be the most vis­i­ble as­pect of this ef­fort, but it is by no means alone, as the TPCR shows.

Upgra­da­tion of com­bat air­craft is a con­tin­u­ous process to main­tain the fleet’s op­er­a­tional rel­e­vance. The newer multi-role com­bat air­craft will re­place the present fleet in fu­ture. Fu­ture com­bat fleet will there­fore be a mix of up­graded air­craft and high tech­nol­ogy mod­ern com­bat air­craft with swing role ca­pa­bil­ity. There is a need to en­hance heavylift ca­pa­bil­ity of the In­dian armed forces. Fur­ther, newer gen­er­a­tion medium-lift air­craft are re­quired to bol­ster the trans­port ca­pa­bil­ity and fill the void be­tween LTA and HETAC. The IAF, Army and Navy will need to build and sus­tain he­li­copter fleet to cater to the re­quire­ments of strate­gic and ef­fect-based op­er­a­tions. VTOL hy­brid air­craft will add flex­i­bil­ity and range while re­duc­ing re­sponse time. The en­vis­aged roadmap as far as avi­a­tion is con­cerned will take into ac­count the fol­low­ing: ca­pa­bil­ity to un­der­take day and night op­er­a­tions in all-weather con­di­tions, mod­erni­sa­tion and upgra­da­tion of all fleets to meet the chal­lenges of ad­vance­ment in tech­nol­ogy, stand-off weapon ca­pa­bil­ity dur­ing day and night, force mul­ti­pli­ers like FRA, AWACS, sur­face sur­veil­lance and car­rier-launched AEW air­craft, more at­tack helicopters to en­hance re­quired ca­pa­bil­ity in this area, up­grade ex­ist­ing helicopters and in­duct more helicopters in medium- and high-lift cat­e­gory (the Ut­tarak­hand op­er­a­tions have em­pha­sised this even

fur­ther), air de­fence as­sets in terms of radars and SAGW to ad­dress multi-level, multi-mode threats and to op­er­ate in net­worked en­vi­ron­ment. Also, multi-spec­trum IEW ca­pa­bil­ity, in­clud­ing space-based ca­pa­bil­ity and op­er­a­tional in­fra­struc­ture for anal­y­sis of data and real-time trans­mis­sion, space-based as­sets for C4ISR, com­mu­ni­ca­tion of all types, nav­i­ga­tion, me­te­o­rol­ogy and ca­pa­bil­ity to de­fend own as­sets. One of the most im­por­tant as­pects will be stealth tech­nol­ogy and its ap­pli­ca­tions in cru­cial pro­grammes un­der de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing a fighter air­craft and a UCAV. In ad­di­tion, in­de­pen­dent, jam proof, nav­i­ga­tion ca­pa­bil­ity with in­built re­dun­dancy for the avi­a­tion plat­form, “There would be a need to keep the en­tire area of in­ter­est un­der con­stant sur­veil­lance. In the mar­itime theatre, the pri­mary area would be the fo­cal point of the SLOCS, ap­proaches to the In­dian Ocean, the en­tire IOR, Off­shore De­vel­op­ment Ar­eas (ODAs) and is­land ter­ri­to­ries. The in­creased risk of asym­met­ric threat and coastal se­cu­rity sce­nario would ne­ces­si­tate per­sis­tent coastal sur­veil­lance. The re­quire­ments would be met through a sur­veil­lance ma­trix com­pris­ing of long-/medium-range mar­itime re­con­nais­sance (LRMR and MRMR) air­craft, am­phibi­ous air­craft and UAVs,” says the doc­u­ment.

As the Vikra­ma­ditya/Gor­shkov car­rier en­ters its phase of sea tri­als, the in­dige­nous air­craft car­rier pro­gramme and on­go­ing in­duc­tion of ad­vanced fight­ers to op­er­ate from th­ese car­ri­ers, fighter air­craft would grad­u­ate to dis­charg­ing mul­ti­far­i­ous roles. Th­ese would in­clude fleet in­te­gral air de­fence, mar­itime strike, strike against shore tar­gets at ex­tended ranges, es­cort and buddy re­fu­elling mis­sions. Sub­marines would re­main one of the dom­i­nat­ing threats to a ship at sea. Hence, early de­tec­tion at ex­tended ranges, abil­ity to con­tin­u­ally mon­i­tor move­ment and take ef­fec­tive hos­tile ac­tion would be a con­stant pre­req­ui­site for naval avi­a­tion. This would be achieved through LRMR air­craft at ex­tended ranges, MRMR air­craft at closer ranges/along the coasts and in­te­gral helicopters op­er­at­ing from war­ships. Troop car­ry­ing helicopters op­er­at­ing from both ships and ashore would be re­quired to aug­ment avi­a­tion as­sets in or­der to ef­fec­tively un­der­take spe­cial op­er­a­tions in dif­fi­cult ter­rains, ODAs, is­land ter­ri­to­ries, counter asym­met­ric threat and com­bat piracy in the IOR. Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh, who was re­cently in Ja­pan, signed an agree­ment with the coun­try agree­ing to ex­plore ways for In­dia to ac­quire the Shinmaywa US-2 am­phibi­ous air­craft. Air­craft such as th­ese would form a key el­e­ment to­wards un­der­tak­ing coastal/ in­ter-is­land ferry for per­son­nel and cargo, sup­ply of crit­i­cal spares to ships and sub­marines at sea, SAR mis­sions and vis­ual/radar sur­veil­lance of coastal ar­eas and is­land ter­ri­to­ries, ca­su­alty evac­u­a­tion at sea, rapid re­sponse mis­sions to­wards in­duc­tion/withdrawal of spe­cial forces and hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance.

In Ut­tarak­hand, the IAF was able to de­ploy a sin­gle Mi-26, per­haps the only one ser­vice- able from one a hand­ful left. The MoD will shortly con­clude a con­tract for 15 CH-47F Chi­nooks from Boe­ing. Heavy-lift helicopters would sig­nif­i­cantly bol­ster the ca­pa­bil­ity to land troops and equip­ment both on land and off­shore. They would come in very handy for road build­ing in moun­tain­ous ter­rain, says the TPCR doc­u­ment. The en­vis­aged air­craft in­duc­tions would be sup­ported by mod­ern in­te­gral ar­ma­ment with weapon tech­nolo­gies fa­cil­i­tat­ing faster re­sponse and en­abling pre­ci­sion strikes to meet emerg­ing threats. De­vel­op­ment of full mo­tion with six de­grees of freedom sim­u­la­tors for all ex­ist­ing and fu­ture air plat­forms. De­vel­op­ment of rear cock­pit train­ers for mis­sion train­ing of ob­servers. Both sim­u­la­tors should be link­able for full crew train­ing in mis­sion roles. To­wards cap­i­tal­is­ing on the unique ca­pa­bil­i­ties of UAVs in terms of per­sis­tent sur­veil­lance, an in­creased role is en­vis­aged to be played through in­duc­tion of high-/ medium-al­ti­tude long en­durance UAVs and ship based VTOL. The fol­low­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties will be im­per­a­tive: De­vel­op­ment of land- and ship-launched UAVs of mini and tac­ti­cal cat­e­gories, de­vel­op­ment of un­manned com­bat ve­hi­cles for use from land, ship and sub­ma­rine, de­vel­op­ment of land and ship-launched/ re­cov­ered UAVs and UCAVs with in­te­grated radar/IR/laser/video sur­veil­lance sys­tems, ESM and ECM and net­work­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Data-link­ing of th­ese UAVs with other units in a net-cen­tric data do­main for real-time data trans­fer across mul­ti­ple path­ways.

MiG-29 mul­ti­role

fighter air­craft

AH-64 Apache he­li­copter

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