(This was originally posted in Financial Express by HUMA SIDDIQUI)
In the midst of the ongoing standoff between India and China along the 1300km Line of Actual Control and constant Ceasefire Violations across the LOC, the Indian Air Force is ready for a `Two front war’. To deal with such a scenario, the IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari had recently told the media, the focus is on enhancing its overall combat capabilities. The IAF is also dealing with a dwindling number of squadrons. And efforts are on for inducting new fighters in the near future. The OEMs have already responded to the RFI for 114 fighters. The process is on and it is still a long way to go. Chief of IAF, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, talks about various aspects of the Service and Theaterisation with Huma Siddiqui.
Following are excerpts
What is IAF’s focus on self-reliance in defence production? When will IAF start getting the delivery of Light Combat Aircraft and Light Combat helicopters from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited?
IAF is aiming at self-reliance in all spheres and is seen as its engine of growth for the aerospace industry. While we have succeeded fairly well towards this, there is tremendous scope for further R&D in high technology spares and products. Indian Air Force had seeded the Defence Aerospace Industry and nurtured the production of various aircraft of all generations, LCA Mk1 being the latest induction in the IAF’s arsenal. Apart from HTT 40, IAF is committed towards development of AMCA aiming at 6th Gen niche technologies.
LCA is already operational in IAF and further deliveries under the contract for LCA in FOC are under progress. The LCH contract is likely to be signed shortly, with deliveries expected to commence after that.
What is the latest on the 114 fighter jet for IAF? Is the plan on? Or is there a revisit to the plan based on budgetary constraints?
We plan to induct 114 MRFAs under Make in India provisions in a phased manner. The Air Staff Qualitative Requirements (ASQRs) for the current proposal are being finalized.
Post Jammu drone attack — how is IAF preparing for dealing with such attacks?
Necessary security measures have been put in place against rogue drone threats. The mitigating measures include enhancement of counter drone capabilities with indigenous hard and soft kill options.
IAF has also sent RFI for getting ADT (Anti-Drone Technology) System. What is the update?
Procurement of the subject system will be undertaken through indigenous routes under Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020.
Aerial combat and electronic warfare (EW): How is IAF prepared for the future?
Over the last decade, IAF’s policy has been to upgrade its inventory with “Integrated EW solutions”. Upgrade of Mirage fleet and new inductions like Rafale, Chinook, Apache, Akash Missile System and MRSAM, stand testimony to this.
Training on EW systems has been tailored to meet operator level preparedness and enhancement of skill levels across platforms. This includes policies to enable development of expertise and effective utilization on systems.
What about the drones IAF is expected to get from General Atomics?
The case for procurement of MQ-9B Predator RPAs for the three Services is being progressed with the Indian Navy as the lead service for processing the case.
Theaterisation and its feasibility and execution: What are your thoughts?
Success in conflicts will depend on how well the three services are integrated. Joint Planning and execution is the cornerstone of integrated warfighting. The three services have demonstrated this in the recent Eastern Ladakh impasse.
Synergistic application of military power is necessary irrespective of the military structure that a nation adopts. The IAF is fully supportive of joint and integrated planning and war-fighting structures which are already underway. The structure, if it is to succeed, must exploit the strength and cater for the specific service doctrines of all components of military power.
Thoughts on Indo-US strategic partnership and joint exercises?
Under the overall ambit of Indo-US strategic partnership, IAF engages with USAF through bilateral and multilateral engagements which promote mutual interaction, training requirements, exchange visits and flying/ field exercises. The interactions benefit both the Air forces by increasing operational prowess and strategic reach. These strategic partnerships are strengthened by participation of IAF leadership in Executive Steering Groups and Airpower Leaders Conference.