Should India focus more on enhancing its air power?
Yesterday, at least 16 Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft landed on the Lucknow-Agra Expressway in a rare exercise demonstrating its versatility and might. The IAF is renowned as a world-class force capable of protecting our skies and saving our fellow civilians in times of natural calamities. But, its combat strength is depleting. Is India doing enough to boost the IAF? We answer.
Obsolescence and untimely replacement of warplanes plague IAF
The IAF's fleet strength is depleting due to obsolescence of vintage platforms such as the MiG-21 and MiG-27 which are currently being phased out without immediate replacement. Its inventory now comprises of Jaguar, MiG-29 and Mirage-2000 fighter jets which are in various stages of upgrades and refitting for continued use. The IAF is inducting 272 Sukhoi-30MKI planes which are its most advanced front-line fighters.
Where IAF stands against China and Pakistan
The IAF currently has 35 active fighter squadrons as opposed to a sanctioned strength of 42. Each squadron has between 18-20 aircraft. However, the IAF's actual strength may be down to 25 squadrons, according to a Parliamentary report. IAF Chief BS Dhanoa recently said that with its current inventory, the air force can more than match Pakistan and is adequately prepared against China.
IAF finally starts procuring new warplanes but more are needed
After widespread delays, the IAF's attempts at procuring new and advanced fighter jets are reaching fruition. The first of the long-delayed indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft was finally inducted last year. The IAF will induct 123 Tejas warplanes by 2024-25. Last year, India signed a Rs. 59,000 crore deal with France to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets which will begin deliveries from September 2019.
IAF wishlist: Stealth fighters co-developed with Russia, made-in-India
The IAF has started looking for to buy 114 new single-engine fighter jets under 'Make in India'. Swedish company Saab has offered its Gripen warplane while America's Lockheed Martin is pitching the F-16. India is collaborating with Russia's Sukhoi to produce its own version of the stealthy fifth-generation Su-57 fighter jet. Meanwhile, India is side-by-side developing its own fifth-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft.
Indian military must be geared towards air-superiority
India must "realize that wars are no longer won by the army - but rather by Air Forces and Navies," wrote defense expert Abhijit Iyer-Mitra. India has long had a continental outlook leading the Indian Army to receive a majority of budgetary allocation. Hence, the IAF plays a role supporting Army operations rather than an outright offensive role. India must rework its strategic outlook.