From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Tejas LCA
Mains level : Paper 3- Challenges ahead for Indian Air Force
A host of challenges greets India’s new Air Chief.
- The challenges include the rewiring of India’s military into new theatre commands, the reservations expressed by the IAF about its “support” role and the visible depletion in operational air assets due to obsolescence and lack of new platforms.
- The decline in platforms is stark and from a strength of 42 combat squadrons in 2002, the IAF now operates barely 30.
- This shortfall in numbers would remain through this decade.
- Even as there are plans to create new theatre commands and allocate existing air assets to the new formations, the depletion in numbers merits urgent review.
- The purchase of 83 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) will be a fillip even as the sturdy MIGs are finally phased out.
- In the next decade, the IAF hopes to induct the indigenous fifth-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) and the Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) — a new platform that would be built in India with a foreign entity, the “original equipment manufacturer” (OEM), and thereby move up to 35 squadrons.
- Issues: The AMCA is “under design” and India’s track record in the design and manufacture of indigenous fighter aircraft is cost- and time-intensive.
- As regards the MRFA, the request for information for 114 jets has just been issued.
- The Rafale experience and the long delays associated with it would suggest that speedy selection of an OEM will be elusive.
- Air power is becoming technologically more refined with unmanned platforms, cyber-space linkages and AI advances.
- The inherent trans-border nature of this military capability needs astute professional and political husbanding.
- Acquiring credible aerospace power with a meaningful degree of indigenisation will need a greater degree of national resolve, professional integrity and resource allocation than is the case now.
- China has demonstrated the degree of suasion and intimidation that airpower can bring to bear in relation to Taiwan.
A reality check about the quantity and quality of India’s air power and the roles it can undertake should precede its disaggregation to theatre commands in the run-up to India@75.