The Indian Air Force is updating its doctrine in order to become a “Aerospace Force” capable of competing with China in all domains.
Aero India 2023, the biennial air show and aviation expo, is slated for February 13-17, 2023, at Yelahanka Air Force Station in Bengaluru, which has hosted it since 1996.
Though formidable fighter plane manufacturers from around the world will present their goods at the five-day event, India will emphasise ‘Aatmanirbharta’ in defence through “Make in India” methods.
There will also be talk about the enormous potential for collaborations between foreign and indigenous manufacturers to help India’s aviation sector.
Aero India is primarily a trade fair for the defence industry. As a result, it is natural to wonder whether the current needs of the Indian Air Force, from being a tactical force to a strategic force, from being defense-oriented to aiming for air dominance, from being capable of meeting a single threat at one time to fighting a two-front war simultaneously against China and Pakistan, from protecting territorial assets to guarding India’s space assets, can be met by “Make in India” products.
Overall, considering India’s deteriorating geopolitical situation, it is cause for considerable concern that the IAF has just 30-31 fighter squadrons, despite its permitted strength of 42 squadrons.
The gap between desired and actual strength has widened in recent years as the rate at which fighter aircraft retire after reaching the end of their entire technical life outpaces the rate at which their replacements are admitted into the IAF.
As a result, in order to retain the IAF’s combat capability, midlife upgrades are being performed on MiG-29, Mirage-2000, and Jaguar aircraft. However, this is not the true solution, which is to introduce additional Su-30 MKI, LCA (Tejas I and II), Rafale, and medium multirole combat aircraft.
The IAF’s principal job is to protect Indian skies. The shift of the Indian Air Force from a tactical to a strategic force is a natural evolution that is a result of the country’s overall expansion.
According to Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari, our threat scenario has evolved in tandem with the country’s expansion. Today, we are witnessing the emergence of progressively collusive prospective situations, which adds a new dimension to the problem.
If necessary, the IAF would be the most heavily committed of the three services to’swing operations’ between fronts in the Northern Sector. We have developed special strategies for such situations and have optimised our stance in response.
Asset inductions have been made with this in mind, and a time-bound plan for correcting inadequacies has also been implemented. In keeping with its national responsibilities, the IAF has broadened its scope and paid increasing emphasis to the security of India’s territorial assets.
Indeed, as Defence Minister Rajnath Singh recently stated, the IAF must transform into an Aerospace Force. This role arises organically from the fact that air and space are one continuum, with “air-related” duties easily transitioning into “space-related” ones.
This concept applies to situational awareness as well as defence against any inbound threats. As a result, in accordance with the Defence Minister’s strategy, the IAF is apparently equipping and training itself in order to seamlessly adapt to space-related activities.
The IAF is expanding its space capabilities in areas such as communications, navigation, ISR, and space surveillance networks.
Assuming that Pakistan lags behind India in terms of air force, China is a formidable foe. So, where does India stand in relation to China?
To begin with, unlike the IAF, which last engaged in offensive combat in the 1999 Kargil Battle, the Chinese Air Force (PLAAF) has not fought a significant war since the 1950s’ Korean War.
During the Kargil conflict, the IAF played a heroic role in developing unique and innovative ways of night bombing at altitudes never before attempted in air combat history.
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