While diplomatic and military negotiations call for complete disengagement on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the Chinese Air Force is constantly increasing its presence across eastern Ladakh. The next round of talk between military commanders of the two countries is expected to take place soon.
Indian Air Force Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari noted that People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force is still present at three air bases on their side of the LAC. “But we are fully deployed and prepared on our side,” the IAF chief assured.
He made it clear that China’s capability to launch multiple high altitude missions would remain weak, and IAF is not worried about the threat.
Speaking ahead of the 89th IAF Day, Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said the recent induction of Rafale jets, Apaches and Chinook helicopters have significantly added to the IAF combat potential. “IAF is in the process of new combat systems to ensure that we retain an edge over our adversaries. And, we are getting S400 air defence missile systems by the end of this month,” IAF chief said.
Even as he exuded confidence on IAF’s capability, the air chief also admitted that with the current acquisition plan, they (IAF) will not be able to achieve 42 squadron strength in the next 10-15 years.
At present, IAF is down to 31 squadrons of combat jets, despite induction of Rafale and LCA Tejas squadrons. The authorised strength is 42 squadrons, a figure that IAF has never touched. The maximum number reached is 39.5 in the early 1990s. Besides, IAF is planning to retire four MiG 21 squadrons in the next three to four years.
IAF is banking on 83 TEJAS MK-1A, along with TEJAS MK-2, which is under development. In addition, an indigenous fifth-generation advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA) is also under development by the DRDO, but is not expected to make its debut by 2032. IAF has also floated a tender for 114 fighter jets and is waiting for government approval to go ahead with the procurement plan.
Touching upon the Theaterisation of armed forces, the air chief said the IAF is fully committed towards integration and jointness to cater for future warfare. “But the strength and doctrines of each service need to be taken into account,” Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said while adding that the deliberations and discussions are on over this subject.
“We are hopeful that the ultimate structure that will emerge will cater for jointly planning for operations at all levels,” he added.
Recently, the air force has raised some reservations about the Theaterisation model of the armed forces.
Meanwhile, IAF chief Chaudhari denied reports that the banned two-finger test was conducted on a woman officer in the alleged Coimbatore rape case and stated that the IAF law is strict on any such incident. “IAF law is very strict on any such incident. The two-finger test conducted on a woman officer is misreported. No two-finger test was done. We are well aware of the rules and due action would be taken,” he said.