On the momentous occasion of the Indian Air Force celebrating its 90th Anniversary, the Air Chief reaffirmed IAF’s commitment to protect the nation’s sovereignty and integrity at all costs
IAF’s annual press conference ahead of the Indian Air Force Day on October 8, was held in the capital. Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari addressed the media and shared the sentiments and future plans of the Indian Air Force.
The annual Air Force Day fly-past and parade that was traditionally held at Hindon Airbase in Ghaziabad over the years, will be held in Chandigarh this year. This is in line with the government’s directive to take major events out of the NCR to different parts of the Country.
Group Captain Rathi, Western Air Command shared the details of the Aerial Display over Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh and the various formations that the IAF Air Prowess will display during the Air Force Day parade, to be held on October 8. There will be a total of 83 aircraft, including nine on standby and about five display teams participating. The IAF day will also witness the first public display by the indigenously developed Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) Prachanda, which was formally inducted into the IAF, earlier this month.
Addressing the media, Air Chief talked about warfare in the future, “traditionally, wars were fought on the land, sea and in the air. Today, newer domains like cyber and space are increasingly affecting the conduct of operations even in the traditional realms. To absorb these changes, the IAF is on the path of transformation so that we can fight and win tomorrow’s wars. We are in the process of acquiring and operationalising cutting-edge systems in our inventory and upgrading the existing inventory of aircraft, weapons, and other combat support systems.”
On the operational readiness of the IAF, he stated, “we continue to be actively deployed while at the same time expediting the operationalisation of recently inducted systems like Rafale, LCA, and S-400 among others. Today, as I speak, the IAF continues to be ever vigilant and deployed, our Air Defence elements are deployed 24x7, 365 days of the year to prevent any violation or transgression of our national airspace. Our SAGW units continue to be on alert and our fighters are always on readiness to be scrambled in a matter of a few minutes to counter any emergent threat.”
IAF is working in sync with government’s push towards Atmanirbharta. The IAF Chief mentioned that India had not faced any shortage of spares, owing to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. “We have sourced 62,000 spares and components, locally in the last few years. Our dependence on Russia and Ukraine is reducing and we are confident that with the domestic industry stepping up, we will be able to overcome any shortfall in spares that we have been traditionally sourcing from these countries.” He added that, “our focus has been on building indigenous capabilities and also upgrading our older equipment. We are looking forward to inducting LCA Mk 1A, HTT-40 trainers, indigenous weapons and different radars. The LCH has been inducted into the Air Force yesterday and I am confident that the helicopter will add teeth to the IAF’s strike capability. We are fully committed to the development of LCA Mk 2 and AMCA. The induction of C295 aircraft is a step in the right direction and will boost the Indian aerospace manufacturing ecosystem. IAF was also the first service to sign a contract under the iDEX programme for counter-UAS systems. Mehar Baba Competition-II has also been launched and we hope to see significant progress in the domain of Unmanned Aerial Systems.”
The IAF Chief made it very clear that the IAF is not looking at reducing sanctioned squadron strength of 42 and that these numbers are vital for a 24X7 Combat Air Patrol. The IAF does rely purely on quantitative and qualitative analysis while reassessing the capabilities of the adversary, he said. It is important to build on the numbers of fighter squadrons since the force has a large geographical area to take care of. He mentioned that “with inductions of around six squadrons of LCA Mark 2, AMCA, and MRFA, we will be at 35 to 36 squadrons by the middle of the next decade.”
IAF Chief also acknowledged the synergy with the Space based assets. He said, “we see Space as a natural extension of the air medium and we understand the need for exploiting this domain to the nation’s advantage. Space based assets significantly enhance the potency of air power and therefore our strategy is to fully integrate our Air and Space capabilities to have a common picture of the aerospace medium and to enable optimum force application.”
He highlighted the importance of joint planning, execution, and integrating the efforts of the three services in future wars. “We believe that the model of integration that we adopt in future wars and are keen on must be future-ready, it must reduce levels of decision-making, and capitalise on the strength of all three services. We need an organisational structure that is best suited for Indian conditions and our geopolitical imperatives”, he said.
Air Force plans to induct around 3,500 Agniveers as part of its recruitment next year. A total of 3,000 male Agniveers will join the service in December this year. “We as an organisation are gender agnostic and recognise merit and performance above everything else. A high ratio of women officers in the IAF is testimony to our commitment in providing equal opportunity and a level playing field for every individual irrespective of gender. Induction of female Agniveers is planned next year,” he said.
Looking at the centenary celebrations, 10 years hence, the Chief mentioned, “I feel it is an opportune time for us to transform the service into a modern, future-ready, and technologically superior aerospace power by the time we celebrate our centenary. I am sure all air warriors will put their best foot forward in that direction. I also exhort other stakeholders, especially the DPSUs, private industry and MSMEs to continue providing unflinching support to enable this transformation.”
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari’s response to Jayant Baranwal, Editor-in-Chief, SP’s Aviation
Jayant Baranwal: Regarding the fighter squadrons, you mentioned last year that we will not be able to achieve 42 numbers and in the next 10-15 years, the maximum that we will be able to achieve is 35. How is the current scenario going?
Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari: About the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) induction, the Initial Operational Configuration (IOC) version, we have already inducted, all 16 fighters in the first squadron. In the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) version, we have inducted 14 fighters and the balance including the trainers should get inducted by the end of this fiscal year. You are aware of our contract for an additional 83 Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas’ MK 1A is already in place. Apart from that we are also committed to acquiring the LCA MK 2 and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).
The quest for getting the medium-range fighter aircraft (MRFA) continues, we have analysed all the RFI responses and the Air Staff Qualitative Requirements (AS QRs) have been finalised. We were seeking more commitment from all the OEMs for ensuring indigenous content and that the ‘Make in India’ provisions are adhered to by all the OEMs, so that’s the progress. With all the inductions, the 6 squadrons of Mk 2, AMCA , and MRFA, we will be 35-36 squadrons by the middle of the next decade.