A gust of wind!

The gust of wind (Rafale) is go­ing to kick-start the ex­er­cise to aug­ment the de­plet­ing squadron strength of the In­dian Air Force soon

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - The writer is for­mer Chief of the Air Staff and for­mer Mem­ber, Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sory Board. AIR CHIEF MARSHAL F.H. MA­JOR (RETD)

“It would make im­mense sense if the Rafale num­bers are in­cre­men­tally in­creased to form at least five squadrons (80 air­craft) for the ease of main­te­nance, train­ing and lo­gis­tics.” — Air Chief Marshal F.H. Ma­jor (Retd)

It would make im­mense sense if the Rafale num­bers are in­cre­men­tally in­creased to form at least five squadrons (80 air­craft) for the ease of main­te­nance, train­ing and lo­gis­tics

The lit­eral trans­la­tion of Rafale in French is ‘a gust of wind’ – and it seems that this gust of wind is go­ing to kick-start the ex­er­cise to aug­ment the de­plet­ing squadron strength of the In­dian Air Force (IAF) soon, al­beit in a small way and in lesser num­bers and not as the ‘Mother of all Deals’ — as it was pur­ported to be! But the in­duc­tion of even 36 Rafale is wel­come – the much needed ‘wind’ be­neath the IAF’s ‘wings’!

While it is a fact that no air force in the world can have a com­bat fleet con­sist­ing of only the most mod­ern and cut­ting-edge com­bat plat­forms, a healthy tech­nol­ogy mix of low tech­nol­ogy/medium tech­nol­ogy/fourth and fifth-gen­er­a­tion tech­nol­ogy plat­forms (20%:40%:40%) is an ac­cepted ra­tio to pro­ject air­power cred­i­bly and po­tently against your likely ad­ver­saries. Ev­ery sin­gle air force in the world is al­ways in some form of mod­erni­sa­tion or the other given the ob­so­les­cence/age­ing of equip­ment, chang­ing threat/con­flict sce­nar­ios and rapid ad­vance­ment of tech­nol­ogy – it is only the costs, scope and time frames that vary. IAF is no dif­fer­ent from any other, and is go­ing through the many nu­ances and com­plex­i­ties that ac­com­pany such trans­for­ma­tions!

The only pe­cu­liar dif­fer­ence the IAF faces is that be­sides the on­go­ing mod­erni­sa­tion, it’s com­bat fleet is de­plet­ing at an alarm­ing rate. A lot has been writ­ten and de­bated as to why this is hap­pen­ing and I will not get into it, but the key is­sue now is to aug- ment our squadron strength in the quick­est time frame with a healthy mix of com­bat plat­forms in the ra­tio sug­gested above, or close to it. The cru­cial is­sue that needs to be kept in mind is that this mix must be of only four or five air­craft types – but in suf­fi­cient num­bers to meet the re­quire­ments of a 42 squadron Air Force. An­other great ad­van­tage of a four or five air­craft types Air Force is the ease of main­te­nance, train­ing and lo­gis­tics. In the present con­text and given costs to the na­tion, an ideal and healthy mix of air­craft types in the IAF could be – MiG vari­ants (15 per cent), Mi­rage 2000s/Jaguars/LCA (45 per cent) and Su-30/Rafale (40 per cent). What is cru­cial how­ever, is the phase-out/in­duc­tion time frame of the old and new plat­forms – this will de­ter­mine the op­er­a­tional pre­pared­ness and com­bat edge of the IAF at any given time.

It would make im­mense sense if the Rafale num­bers are in­cre­men­tally in­creased to form at least five squadrons (80 air­craft) for the ease of main­te­nance, train­ing and lo­gis­tics that is re­quired to main­tain a front line state-of-the-art air­craft such as Rafale. Also, given the size and ex­panse of our coun­try and the airspace that needs to be con­trolled, de­fended even dur­ing peace­time and ‘dom­i­nated’ in times of war/con­flict, the num­ber of air­craft do mat­ter!

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