Quicker in­duc­tion of com­bat air­craft es­sen­tial


The In­dian Air Force (IAF) re­tired its last squadron of 15 Sovi­etera MiG-21FL (Type 77) fight­ers on De­cem­ber 11, af­ter nearly five decades of op­er­a­tional ser­vice, and the farewell was an emo­tional mo­ment. The work­horse of the Air Force, the MiG-21s were in­tro­duced in ser­vice in 1963 and proved their met­tle in the 1971 war.

How­ever, the MiG-21 era for the Air Force is far from over. As many as 10 squadrons of more mod­ern vari­ants of the fighter are still in ser­vice. This fleet of over 200 fight­ers is still the big­gest in the Air Force but will soon be dwarfed with the Su-30MKIs pro­gres­sively get­ting into ser­vice.

In­dia also should see faster in­duc­tion of Rafale and the in­dige­nously de­signed, de­vel­oped and pro­duced fourth-gen­er­a­tion plus light com­bat air­craft (LCA) – Te­jas. On De­cem­ber 20, the ini­tial op­er­a­tional clear­ance-II of the air­craft will be done in Ben­galuru af­ter which it will be in­ducted into the Air Force. The air­craft will be the LCA Mark 1 and 40 of them will be in­ducted by the IAF. There is mur­mur within the Air Force that the air­craft needs fur­ther im­prove­ments. If we may re­call what the for­mer Air Chief, Air Chief Mar­shal P.V. Naik had called the air­craft as a MiG-21++. Be that as may, the air­craft re­cently achieved a mile­stone by launch­ing an in­frared seek­ing air-to-air mis­sile that hit the tar­get in a di­rect hit with pre­ci­sion and de­stroyed the tar­get.

How­ever, what the IAF is se­ri­ously look­ing at is the in­duc­tion of the Rafale which, for some rea­son or the other, has got de­layed. The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Mar­shal N.A.K. Browne has in­di­cated that the French fighter air­craft may be in­ducted into the IAF by 2017. Whether it is the in­dige­nous Te­jas or the French Rafale, the IAF needs th­ese air­craft on the dou­ble.

Mov­ing from air to land, we have another ex­am­ple of pro­tracted de­ci­sion-mak­ing – the tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem (TCS). In an in-depth ar­ti­cle on TCS, Lt Gen­eral (Retd) P.C. Ka­toch has un­der­lined the need to quickly es­tab­lish a re­li­able and ro­bust in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy (ICT) net­work which al­lows in­ter­op­er­abil­ity of the three ser­vices. The Army’s mod­erni­sa­tion plan has been se­ri­ously af­fected by the void of TCS.

Not just in­ter­op­er­a­ble ICT net­work, what the coun­try needs is a per­ma­nent Chair­man of the Chiefs of Staff Com­mit­tee (COSC) and there are indi­ca­tions that the gov­ern­ment may take a de­ci­sion in 2014. Lt Gen­eral (Retd) Ka­toch opines that the time is now to ap­point a COSC as the threats faced by In­dia were in­creas­ing from across the bor­ders.

The need to co­or­di­nate in the bat­tle­field is gain­ing cre­dence and tech­nol­ogy is also mov­ing in that di­rec­tion. In the US, re­search agency DARPA is de­vel­op­ing a pro­gramme called Mo­bile Ad hoc In­ter­op­er­abil­ity Net­work Gate­way (MAIN­GATE) which is ex­pected to help multi­na­tional forces, US Gov­ern­ment agen­cies and US troops op­er­at­ing in for­ward-de­ployed lo­ca­tions in timely com­mand and con­trol de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

We look for­ward to your feed­back as to help us im­prove our cov­er­age of se­cu­rity is­sues.

Wish­ing our read­ers a Very Happy and Pros­per­ous New Year !

Jayant Baran­wal Publisher & Ed­i­tor-in-Chief

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