During the press conference, ahead of IAF’s 86th anniversary celebrations, CAS repeatedly, reiterated that Indian Air Force is much more than just Rafale. It is a potent force with a focus on the mission and the brilliant men behind the machines.
On October 8 this year, the Indian Air Force (IAF) celebrates its 86th Anniversary, an occasion of immense significance for both serving and retired personnel of this organisation of high repute. Established on this day in the year 1932 with just a handful of Westland Wapiti piston engine biplanes, the journey of the IAF of a little over eight and half decades since its birth, has been long and arduous, but none the less, the experience has been rewarding. Today, while the IAF with its authorised combat fleet strength at 42 squadrons can boast of being the fourth largest in the world, it also faces some monumental challenges.
With efforts by the IAF since the beginning of the last decade to induct fourth-generation combat aircraft failing to fructify so far, the strength of the fighter fleet has dwindled to just 31 squadrons as against the authorised level of 42. Hopefully, the Indian aerospace industry will gear up to provide the IAF with capable indigenous fighter aircraft such as the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Mk IA and Mk II in the numbers required and in a respectable timeframe. This will help the IAF tide over the escalating crisis, at least to some extent. The IAF is also looking forward to the success of the indigenous fifth generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) project to enable it to foray into the next generation with relative ease. This is particularly important in view of the fact that India has withdrawn from the joint Indo-Russian project to develop a fifth generation fighter aircraft. Hopefully, the AMCA project will not be plagued with uncertainty as has been the case of the LCA Tejas. There is talk of a serving Air Marshal of the IAF being entrusted with the responsibility of management of the LCA project. This issue of SP’s Aviation carries a number of analytical articles on the IAF, the formidable challenges that lie ahead, pressing requirements and the various options before the service for induction of combat aircraft to restore the fighter fleet to the level authorised.
During an interaction with the media preceding the 86th Anniversary celebrations by the IAF, Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa, Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), a highly experienced and an outstanding professional, stated that the Rafale combat aircraft being procured from Dassault Aviation of France, is a very capable platform and would be a “game changer” in the region as neither of the two adversaries currently posses combat aircraft to match this platform from the French aerospace industry. A special message from the CAS on the occasion of the 86th Anniversary of the IAF as also a personal interview with him, are a part of this issue of the magazine.
Writing about the Indian aerospace industry, in his article on ‘Defence Offsets’, Pratyush Kumar, President of Boeing India suggests that the country has tremendous potential for growth in the aerospace and defence industry and defence offsets should be used as an ‘enabler’. He says that the provision for offsets as an integral part of a defence contract, can be an effective medium to harness this potential and not be a serious ‘limiting factor’ for foreign OEMs while burdening the end user. He believes that there is a need to “Reform, Rethink and Reset” the regulatory framework.
All this and more in this special issue of SP’s Aviation dedicated to the IAF. Warmest Congratulations to IAF on the occasion!