October 8, 2022, marks the 90th year of existence of the Indian Air Force. The IAF has emerged as the crucial constituent of India’s armed forces, playing a decisively critical role for conduct of any operational requirement for the nation.
Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari PVSM AVSM VM ADC in his press conference on 4th October 2022 clearly stated his views on Chinese incursions into Ladakh region – “the benchmark for the situation to become normal in eastern Ladakh would be to return to status quo ante prior to the standoff and complete withdrawal of troops from all friction points and asserted that appropriate “non-escalatory” measures were taken following China’s recent air activities in the region”. He added that Chinese actions along the frontier including in the Ladakh sector are being monitored constantly and the IAF’s overall preparations are part of continuing efforts irrespective of challenges from China.
With induction of latest generation weapon systems such as 36 Rafale advanced fighter jets, 5 batteries of S-400 Air Defence systems (by 2023), homegrown Integrated Air Defence Command Control Systems (IACCS) providing exceptional network-centric warfare capability, indigenous Tejas jets, Prachanda Light Combat Helicopters and many more modern weapons, the IAF is flying with confidence to give a bloody nose to any adversary attempting to disturb the nation’s sovereignty.
This article highlights some of the new milestones ahead of the IAF in the years ahead.
Brahmos missile on IAF Sukhoi 30s: The IAF will arm more Sukhoi-30MKI jets with the precision-strike BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, whose range has been extended from 290 to 450-km.
MRFA : The process of inducting 114 Multi Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) is progressing. The program would be progressed under Make in India categorisation and pursued under DAP-2020, focussing on substantial transfer of technology to an Indian production partner. However, the project to induct 12 Su30MKI and 21 MiG 29 fighters have been deferred.
AMCA : With the aim of bridging the gap of IAF’s urgent need for a 5th Gen fighter aircraft, DRDO is working towards the indigenous development of the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) with active support of IAF.
UAVs : Plans are under way for significant procurement of indigenously developed UAVs of all operational categories Indian industry have already achieved great success ventures in this area.
Flight Refuelling Aircraft (FRAs) FRA : IAF is processing the wet lease of FRAs and a contract could be concluded in the near future.
AEW&C Mk-II : Indigenous development of six platforms for AEW&C Mk-lI has been initiated by DRDO. Pre-owned Airbus A-321 of Air India are being procured for this project.
C295 : Multi-Role Tactical Airlift Aircraft, as replacement for IAF Avro, is progressing on schedule. Contract was signed on 24 Sep 21. Under this project, 16 aircraft will be delivered in Fly Away condition from M/s Airbus, Spain between Sep 2023 to Aug 2025 and 40 aircraft are to be manufactured in India by Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) in the period of Sep 2026 to Aug 2031.
Space Based Assets : With IAF in the lead under the aegis of Defence Space Agency, the three Services are jointly focussing towards a consolidated Space Plan catering for long term needs of the nation in the fields of ISR, SATCOM, PNT etc.
Maintenance & Spares : Atmanirbharta holds the promise for indigenisation and production of spares and associated maintenance equipment for IAF weapon systems. IAF is moving on fast track to ensure such efforts fructify at the earliest. IAF Base Repair Depots have been tasked, on high priority, to produce such equipment with technology support from various sources. This major task will reap rich benefits for the IAF in the near future.
In a historic first, the parade and flypast of Air Force Day has been moved out of the National Capital Region to Chandigarh. Air Force Day flypast is scheduled to take place on 8th October over Sukhna lake in Chandigarh. 74 aircraft which will include fighters, transport and helicopters will participate in the flypast. Amongst them is the recently inducted light combat helicopter.
The Indian Air Force remains seized of global security situation. The CAS stated during the press conference “Recent events on the global landscape have clearly indicated the presence of a strong military is imperative to ward off external threats through deterrence and if deterrence fails to neutralise those threats. Therefore, the armed forces in general and the IAF in particular will remain a lynchpin in the national security matrix both as a coercive deterrent as well as a war winning instrument.”
The IAF continues to achieve highest operational standards in its finest traditions of top notch professionalism. Let’s wish the IAF more success and glory in the coming years.