Ca­pa­ble of Coun­ter­ing New-age Chi­nese Jets, Rafale Will Give Us Edge

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics -

In­dia is ca­pa­ble of coun­ter­ing new gen­er­a­tion Chi­nese fight­ers and is cre­at­ing new infrastructure on the bor­der to boost ca­pa­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing a new fighter jet base in east Ladakh, Air Chief Mar­shal BS Dhanoa tells Manu Pubby in a widerang­ing in­ter­view. The air chief feels that the Make in In­dia ini­tia­tive will arm the air force against fu­ture threats and has con­fi­dence in the abil­i­ties of the pri­vate sec­tor to de­liver. Ex­cerpts:

What is your as­sess­ment on the ca­pa­bil­ity of the two fifth gen­er­a­tion Chi­nese fighter jets ? We have some of the lat­est air­craft in our in­ven­tory po­si­tioned in our east­ern sec­tor to tackle our ad­ver­sary’s air power. The Chi­nese 5th gen­er­a­tion air­craft have just been tested out and it will take time for them to re­alise their full po­ten­tial. Our air de­fence ar­chi­tec­ture is ca­pa­ble of de­tect­ing in­tru­sions and have the req­ui­site com­bat as­sets, ground and air to counter the threat from them. With the ac­qui­si­tion of the Rafale, our ca­pa­bil­ity in terms of com­bat air as­sets will vastly im­prove and will be in a po­si­tion to greatly in­crease the asym­me­try in com­bat po­ten­tial over the ad­ver­sary. We are also in the process of build­ing our ca­pac­i­ties to ac­quire more state of art com­bat and com­bat sup­port as­sets. A sub­stan­tial por­tion of this would be pro­cured through the ‘Make in In­dia’ route.

What are the Air Force plans for aug­men­ta­tion of infrastructure in the bor­der ar­eas? Our op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­ity is de­pen­dent on equip­ment, train­ing, pro­ce­dures, infrastructure avail­abil­ity and plans based on our anal­y­sis of the ad­ver­sary. We have quite a few bases in our east­ern sec­tor op­er­at­ing front­line squadrons. These bases are be­ing mod­ernised with the lat­est fa­cil­i­ties to un­der­take fullscale op­er­a­tions. Spe­cial shel­ters are be­ing build over these struc­tures to pro­vide for pas­sive air de­fence and they are pro­gress­ing at a fast pace. On the north­ern front, trial land­ings by trans­port air­craft have been car­ried out by our air­craft at Ny­oma air base and its de­vel­op­ment into a fighter air­craft base is part of the IAF’s plan in the near fu­ture.

In­dia is look­ing at part­ner­ing a pri­vate player for a new fighter jet line un­der the Make in In­dia plan. What kind of tech­nol­ogy is be­ing looked at? The main ob­jec­tive of Make in In­dia ini­tia­tive in aero­space sec­tor is not only to man­u­fac­ture these air­craft in the coun­try but to har­ness key tech­nolo­gies es­sen­tial for man­u­fac­tur­ing de­fence equip­ment in the coun­try. The tech­nol­ogy ca­pa­bil­ity trans­fer be­ing sought is to en­able us to uni­lat­er­ally de­sign de­velop and man­u­fac­ture top of the line fighter air­craft in the coun­try. This will have mul­ti­ple spinoffs -tech­nol­ogy in­fu­sion will boost the R&D sec­tor, is likely to re­vive some of the stag­nated de­sign and de­vel­op­ment projects and will also as­sist in fu­ture fighter de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes.

The air force has been look­ing at force en­hancers. What mix of ca­pa­bil­ity en­hancers are planned in com­ing years? We al­ready have three AWACS air­craft on the IL-76 plat­form op­er­a­tional and a case for the pro­cure­ment of two ad­di­tional AWACS is at CCS (Cabi­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity) ap­proval stage. The flight tri­als for indige­nous AEW&C air­craft is in the fi­nal stages and the sys­tem is likely to be in­ducted soon. Apart from these, DRDO has chalked out a roadmap for de­vel­op­ment of indige­nous AWACS on Air­bus A330 plat­form and we ex­pect the first two indige­nous AWACS to be in­ducted in the IAF by 2025. IAF was pur­su­ing the case for Flight Re­fu­eller Air­craft (FRA). Af­ter the with­drawal of RFP, we are now ex­plor­ing avail­able op­tions in or­der to en­sure that this crit­i­cal ca­pa­bil­ity is avail­able to us in the ear­li­est pos­si­ble time­frame.

The In­dian in­dus­try has some ca­pac­ity to man­u­fac­ture aerial bombs and other am­mu­ni­tion do­mes­ti­cally, would the air force look at them as a source? Pro­cure­ment of weapons has a re­cur­ring cost and in­di­geni­sa­tion in the field of weapons is one of the pri­or­i­ties of IAF. IAF is closely in­volved in de­sign and de­vel­op­ment of weapons un­der­taken by DRDO and we also carry out flight tri­als of all these weapons. We have iden­ti­fied cer­tain weapons that can be de­signed and man­u­fac­tured by the pri­vate sec­tor.

One crit­i­cism is that the F-16 jets be­ing of­fered to In­dia are sim­i­lar to the ones be­ing op­er­ated by Pak­istan. Is this a mat­ter of con­cern? At present, there is no case for pro­cure­ment of the F-16 air­craft un­der process. How­ever, the F-16 jets of­fered to In­dia dur­ing the bids for 126 MMRCA were more ad­vanced than the ver­sions be­ing op­er­ated by PAF. There are sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences in the two vari­ants and the one of­fered to In­dia by Lock­heed Martin have su­pe­rior ca­pa­bil­i­ties. This was not a mat­ter of con­cern dur­ing the se­lec­tion process.

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