Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, Chief of the Air Staff, spoke exclusively to Jayant Baranwal, Editor-in-Chief on the occasion of Aero India 2021. Following are excerpts from the interview -
SP’s: How do you find the progress of Indian programmes such as LCH?
CAS: The LCH received Initial Operational Clearance on August 17 and its performance has been validated through requisite trials including in hot and high altitudes. Currently the MoD is in the final stages of negotiating a contract with HAL for delivery of the Limited Series Production (LSP) version of the LCH. These helicopters will allow IAF to be closely involved with the development process of the final product and at the same time build operational experience on the platform. The LCH is being developed specifically to suit the requirements of IAF and IA in Indian terrain and climatic conditions and will definitely add significant teeth to our arsenal, we are eagerly looking forward to its induction.
SP’s: How satisfied you are with the LCA the Tejas?
CAS: LCA is a product of indigenous efforts towards building a potent fighter aircraft with contemporary capabilities. “Tejas” is the first advanced Fly-by-Wire fighter aircraft designed, developed and manufactured in India. The aircraft has excellent flying qualities and all pilots who have flown this machine echo this sentiment. The onboard sensors and weapons capability is being progressively improved and it is going to be a potent platform for the IAF for many years to come. IAF is satisfied with the planned enhancements in LCA Mk 1A which will provide us with requisite contemporary combat capability.
SP’s: Off late, we do believe our Air Force has not been very satisfied with the progress of this programme. What all changes and improvements have been introduced if that’s case?
CAS: Like all new inductions, the LCA had its own share of teething problems. However, HAL, ADA and the IAF have worked together to overcome them. We are happy that the FOC configuration has begun to roll out with improved weapons capability, enhanced flight envelope, inflight refuelling capability and advanced features for low speed handling. There are always complexities in any program of this nature and IAF is proactively involved as part of the larger team effort to set up appropriate eco system.
SP’s: Which of the 3 service, according to you, will be the major players in terms of conquering any possible conflicts and concluding the success for the country? Who will dominate the future wars?
CAS: Each service brings a unique set of capabilities to the battle-space. We have to understand that no one service can win the war on its own. Our challenge, as is the challenge for most modern armed forces, is to increase the synergy and cohesiveness to ensure joint operations in true sense, so as to bring to bear the desired effect, when required.
Air Power would play a very significant and critical role. Future threat scenarios would also be shaped by low cost disruptive technologies. Therefore, over and above the requirement of maintaining robust conventional capabilities for conventional conflicts, we have to prepare adequately to fight timeless and borderless wars against faceless enemies jointly. This requires the three services and the other security agencies to ‘train, equip and fight together’.
SP’s: What sort of involvement of space is to be expected in coming times?
CAS: Over a period of time, military capability has become heavily dependent on space based assets. Space based applications are used for enhancing accuracy of weapons, Electronic Warfare, ISR, navigation and communication to name a few. Space domain which includes Anti- Satellite weapons, jamming, spoofing and other non destructive weapons like DEWs, EMP etc will play a major role in future conflict scenarios. With the formation of Defence Space Agency (DSA) and Directorate of Special Projects (DSP), space based military operations, in addition to space based communications, cartography and weather monitoring will get more impetus. Safeguarding our own space assets from any adversary action (covert or overt) will be the key area of focus, towards which having a robust Space Situational Awareness (SSA) setup is an inescapable necessity. The latest reforms by Government of India in the space sector will aid in ensuring that the interests of armed forces are met through greater participation from private sector.
SP’s: How long have we progressed towards space wars?
CAS: With the formation of DSA and DSP, fundamental foundation has been laid down by Government of India. These agencies will strive towards establishing a robust space security arrangement for meeting any space based contingencies that arises in future. Success of Mission Shakti in March 2019 has demonstrated India’s prowess with respect to Direct Ascent Anti-Satellite capability and highlighted the fact we are at par with other space faring nations in terms of orchestrating space based fire power. Notwithstanding, the domain is ever evolving and efforts are underway to seamlessly integrate the existing three mediums (land, sea & air) with space and cyber to weave a secure and robust web of net centric operations. Current Geo-political situations demand us to accelerate our space related projects. The indigenous capability of our space programme is a strength that needs to be rapidly translated into capability to bridge the gap with our adversaries.
Full interview of the CAS can be read in SP’s Aviation Aero India 2021 Special issue