Coming decade will see 114 MRFA fructify and a significant boost in AWACS, AEW&C capabilities, ISR, and aerial refueling capability. Enhanced air combat capabilities with sixth-generation technologies including Directed Energy Weapons, Smart Wingman concept, optionally manned combat platforms, swarm drones, hypersonic weapons will be added to the arsenal of the Indian Air Force.
‘IAF is transforming at a rapid pace and over the years we have grown’, speaking at a press conference ahead of the Air Force Day celebrations, Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria said that the emerging security scenario in our neighborhood and beyond mandates a need to have a robust capability to fight across the entire spectrum of warfare. He stated with confidence that operationally we are amongst the best and our position as a credible combat-ready force is vital given the role Air Force will play towards ensuring victory in any future conflict.
He acknowledged the advent of future warfare and new threats and said that ‘the matrix of threat is complex, apart from sub-conventional threats emanating from terrorism and cyberspace, disruptive technologies and drones are making the threat picture even more complex, particularly in the sub-conventional domain’.
The Rafale combat aircraft inducted its first woman fighter pilot recently.
The Air Force has continued to scale up the combat capability through modernisation and operational training with an inclination on indigenous equipment to achieve self-reliance and strategic autonomy. The offensive strike capability has been honed with up-gradations and new inductions of weapons and platforms. IAF has the largest strategic airlift capability in the region comprising of IL-76, C-17 & C-130 platforms with enhanced heli-lift capabilities.
‘Response to the stand-off along the LAC in the North is indicative of our operational state today. We are determined to handle any contingency. Our airlift capability had the Indian Army rapidly mobilise the troops and equipment to the operational area at a pace which our adversary didn’t expect’, he mentioned.
CAS mentioned that the creation of CDS and DMA has been a landmark step towards increasing tri-services effectiveness, co-ordination, and overall combat capabilities of the Indian Armed Forces. ‘The formation of an Air Defence Command is spearheading the envisaged tri-service Commands and it will further optimise all available Air Defence resources with a robust decision-making structure. This is at an advanced stage’.
Addressing on modernisation, he mentioned that this is an ongoing priority area to enhance the operational potential in keeping with the desired combat capability in the years to come. ‘We have operationalised the recently acquired Rafale, Chinook, and Apache aircraft and integrated them into our current concept of operations in record time. In the next three years, we will see the Rafale and LCA MK1 squadrons operating with full strength, along with additional Su-30 and MiG-29 aircraft, that are being ordered in addition to the current fleets. The mid-life operational upgrade of the Mirage-2000, MiG-29, and Jaguar fleet would add to our capability in this period, thereby further enhancing not only their operational capability but overall operational potential. We have a focused modernisation programme of our existing fleets to integrate and concentrate on the latest weapons, systems, sensors, and technologies’.
The IAF has 1875 women officers, deployed in active combat roles as well as combat support roles. The IAF recognises merit over gender.
The helicopters are also undergoing upgradation and are equipped with modern features. Mi-17 V5 helicopters are being equipped with ISR and EW suite. Mi-17 and Mi-17 IV helicopters and the AN-32 fleet is undergoing upgradation with similar plans in place for the IL-76 fleet.
IAF has a thrust towards the indigenous development of modern aviation platforms and systems in consonance with the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’.
‘We have placed our trust in the LCA. In the next five years, we will commence the induction of 83 LCA Mk1A. We are supportive of DRDO and HAL’s effort at their indigenous production and you will soon see the contract of HTT 40 and LCH in this area’ the Air Chief stated. ‘In the same timeframe, we also plan to digitise our older Air Defence systems and seamlessly integrate them along with our latest acquisitions. We have already achieved a major milestone in Network Centric Operations through the IACCS, strengthening decision-making structures that can handle any air battle’, he added.
The second half of the decade will see the induction of next-generation platforms - the future LCA versions, combat, manned and unmanned platforms. Indigenous development of fifth-generation AMCA will be the mainstay of the IAF fighter fleet along with 114 MRFA fructification. AWACS, AEW&C capabilities, ISR, and aerial refueling capability will also see an enhancement in the next decade.
Air Chief mentioned, ‘for the future, we have initiated processes for developing indigenous combat systems with sixth-generation technologies including Directed Energy Weapons, Smart Wingman concept, optionally manned combat platforms, swarm drones, hypersonic weapons, etc. The space domain is likely to dominate in times to come and is being given the required thrust’.
Women officers are part of a large spectrum of positions across cockpits, SAGW combat vehicles, communication nodes, operations, and maintenance control centers, field setups, administrative and medical facilities. The IAF has 1875 women officers, deployed in active combat roles as well as combat support roles. The IAF recognises merit over gender. The Rafale combat aircraft inducted its first woman fighter pilot recently.