Need Ad­e­quate Fund­ing

Ow­ing to com­plex­i­ties of the De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure and paucity of funds, the list of as­sets re­quired by the IAF to re­place those approaching ob­so­les­cence, has only been grow­ing.

SP's Aviation - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By AIR MAR­SHAL B.K. PANDEY (RETD)

Pre­sen­ta­tion of the na­tional bud­get for the fi­nan­cial year 2018-19 by the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance, Arun Jait­ley, on Fe­bru­ary 1 this year, has cer­tainly gen­er­ated a wave of con­cern across the board in the In­dian armed forces. This ad­verse sen­ti­ment has been trig­gered by the quan­tum of funds al­lot­ted for de­fence, some­thing that has been re­garded by the lead­er­ship of all the three ser­vices as highly in­ad­e­quate. The In­dian armed forces were given the op­por­tu­nity to present their perspective on the level of bud­getary al­lo­ca­tion for de­fence to the Par­lia­men­tary Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on De­fence, headed by Ma­jor Gen­eral B.C. Khan­duri (Retd), Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment from the BJP. To present the con­cerns of the In­dian armed forces were the Vice Chiefs of the three ser­vices.

In an ex­tremely frank and forth­right man­ner, Lt Gen­eral Sarath Chand, Vice Chief of the Army Staff, ap­prised the Par­lia­men­tary Stand­ing Com­mit­tee on De­fence that “the al­lo­ca­tion for de­fence in the bud­get for the year 2018-19 was in fact, a setback for the In­dian Army as the quan­tum of funds sanc­tioned by the govern­ment un­der the head for pro­cure­ment of new weapon sys­tems, was not suf­fi­cient even to pay for on­go­ing projects and barely left any­thing for new pro­cure­ments”. He went on to state that the bud­getary al­lo­ca­tion for the In­dian Army had dashed hopes of the ser­vice for mak­ing any tan­gi­ble or mean­ing­ful progress in the drive towards mod­erni­sa­tion.

Pro­ject­ing the perspective of the In­dian Air Force (IAF), Air Mar­shal S.B. Deo, Vice Chief of the Air Staff, can­didly stated that with the highly de­pleted strength the com­bat fleet of the IAF, it would be dif­fi­cult if not im­pos­si­ble to take on a war against both China and Pak­istan si­mul­ta­ne­ously. He went on to state that the need to build up the strength of the com­bat fleet from the ex­ist­ing 32 squadrons to the autho­rised level of 42 squadrons, was in­deed ur­gent. For the IAF, the de­pleted state of the com­bat fleet is a mat­ter of se­ri­ous con­cern as this trans­lates into a de­fi­ciency at this point in time of around 200 com­bat plat­forms. To make up for this wor­ry­ing short­fall, the IAF would need to in­duct the re­quired num­ber of fourth and fifth gen­er­a­tion com­bat air­craft as early as pos­si­ble. Ef­forts by the IAF in this re­gard ini­ti­ated in the be­gin­ning of the last decade, have so far, failed to fruc­tify for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. With the re­tire­ment from ser­vice of the age­ing fleets of the MiG-21 Bi­son as also of other plat­forms in the next few years, the de­fi­ciency in the fleet of com­bat air­craft would go up by an­other 200 plat­forms, tak­ing the to­tal to around 400.

As per the VCAS, the other re­quire­ment of equal ur­gency of in­duct­ing a ma­jor weapon sys­tem is the pro­cure­ment of the long range sur­face to air mis­sile (SAM) S-400 Tri­umf. A to­tal of five units of this weapon sys­tem that is proposed to be pur­chased from Rus­sia for around $5 bil­lion, will strengthen the IAF’s air de­fence ca­pa­bil­ity against the men­ac­ing mod­ern plat­forms the en­emy is op­er­a­tional­is­ing and will pro­vide a clear edge over both the ad­ver­saries, Pak­istan and China. The VCAS in­formed the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee that with the cur­rent state of equip­ment on the in­ven­tory of the IAF, fight­ing a two-front war would in­deed be very dif­fi­cult, if not im­pos­si­ble.

Over the years, ow­ing to com­plex­i­ties of the De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure and paucity of funds, the list of mod­ern as­sets re­quired by the IAF to re­place the ob­so­les­cent ones has only been grow­ing. Apart from the two ma­jor as­sets dealt with above, there are a large num­ber of other plat­forms and weapon sys­tems that the IAF has been strug­gling to in­duct over the last decade or so. On top of the list are 22 AH-64E Apache at­tack he­li­copters and the CH-47F Chi­nook heavy-lift he­li­copters, both from Boe­ing, for which con­tract has al­ready been fi­nalised with de­liv­ery sched­uled to com­mence in 2019. While some ad­vance pay­ments have al­ready been made, bulk of the fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment is yet to be met with. The other ma­jor fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment is for over $9 bil­lion for 36 Rafale jet fight­ers to be de­liv­ered in the pe­riod 2019-22. Other deals in the pipeline in­clude pro­duc­tion of 200 of the Kamov Ka-226T light he­li­copter in In­dia in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Russian orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­turer. The re­quire­ment of this plat­form could well go up to 400 or even more as the age­ing fleets of Chee­tah, Chetak and Chee­tal are re­tired from ser­vice. Then there is the re­quire­ment for an­other 70 ba­sic trainer air­craft, ei­ther the Pi­la­tus PC-7 or its equiv­a­lent the indige­nous HTT-40 un­der devel­op­ment at the Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Lim­ited (HAL). The IAF also needs to in­duct a fleet of In­ter­me­di­ate Jet Trainer, ei­ther from HAL or from for­eign sources.

The list of as­sets re­quired by the IAF to build up and main­tain the man­dated op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­ity is in­deed large. How­ever, un­less the govern­ment pro­vides the re­sources that are ad­e­quate to fund all these projects, the op­er­a­tional prow­ess the IAF as­pires for, may con­tinue re­main a dis­tant dream!

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