In no scenario can China get the better of us: IAF chief - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 5 October 2020

In no scenario can China get the better of us: IAF chief

After Galwan Valley incident, IAF was ready for air strikes on the PLA, if ordered: Air chief


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 6th Oct 20


In the backdrop of multiple Chinese intrusions into Eastern Ladakh, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, conveyed a reassuring message of a force that has the situation in control, and is equipped and trained to match any adversary.


Addressing the media on Monday in the run-up to the 88th IAF Day on October 8, the Indian Air Force (IAF) chief said: “We are firmly in place to handle any contingency”. He said there is no scenario, in any conflict situation, in which China can get the better of India.


“We conduct bilateral and multilateral exercises with leading air forces of the world and let me share with you with confidence that operationally we are amongst the best,” said the air chief, referring to the IAF’s strong performance in demanding international exercises, such as Red Flag, which the US conducts.


Bhadauria denied the IAF had come close to air strikes on the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) after the killing of 20 Indian soldiers in the Galwan valley in June. However, the IAF had been ready for strikes if ordered, he said.


On whether India’s border infrastructure development was worrying the PLA, Bhadauria said the capability provided by the airfield at Daulat Beg Oldi was “a big threat” to the Chinese.


He admitted the Chinese air force’s long-range strike capability was an “area of strength,” but their vaunted fifth-generation J-20 fighter was still a work in progress, with advanced weapons and sensors, but no indigenous engine.


Glossing over the IAF’s dwindling fighter squadrons, Bhadauria said: “Our offensive strike capability has been honed with upgradations and new inductions of weapons and platforms, ably supported by combat enablers and a networked decision-making environment.”


Yet, he candidly admitted that “even if we move at the fastest possible pace”, the IAF would not reach its authorised 42 squadrons in the coming decade -- “36-38 squadrons would be an achievement,” he said.


Listing on-going inductions, Bhadauria said: “In the next three years we will see the Rafale and LCA (light combat aircraft) Mark 1 squadrons operating with full strength, along with additional Sukhoi-30MKI and MiG-29 aircraft, that are being ordered, in addition to the current fleets. The mid-life operational upgrade of Mirage-2000, MiG-29 and Jaguar fleet would add to our capability in this period.”


The air chief was on surer ground when he lauded the IAF’s airlift capability. “We have the largest strategic airlift capability in our region comprising of IL-76, C-17 Globemaster and C-130 Super Hercules platforms,” he said.


Referring to the induction of a large number of Russian Mi-17V5 and American Chinook CH-47F transport helicopters, Bhadauria pointed out: “We have significantly enhanced our heli-lift capabilities with our helicopter inductions. 


In fact, the IAF’s tactical airlifters enabled the army to quickly block Chinese troops from trespassing even deeper across the Line of Actual Control (LAC).


“Our airlift capability was also brought into focus as we supported the Indian Army in rapid mobilisation of troops and equipment to [the] operational area at a pace which our adversary didn’t expect,” said the IAF chief.


Suggesting the tactical airlift fleet would remain a priority, Bhadauria said: “The AN-32 [medium transport] fleet is halfway through its upgradation. Similar plans are in place for the [heavy lift] IL-76 fleet as well.”


Bhadauria did not mince words in outlining the challenges posed by China and Pakistan, acting in collusion. “The matrix of threat is complex, ranging from aspirational adversaries with huge investments in military arsenal, to those collusively fronted by non-state actors,” he said.


Asked about reports of Chinese combat aircraft operating from Skardu Air Base in Pakistan-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan, the air chief said if China struck India from Skardu, this would be dealt with as a collusive (two front) threat. He appeared to suggest that India would not hesitate to strike Pakistan-controlled territory.


The IAF’s future combat aircraft acquisitions reflect the government’s new “Atmanirbhar Bharat” (self-reliant India) push. “We have placed our trust in the Tejas LCA. In the next five years we will commence induction of 83 LCA Mark 1A. We are supportive of DRDO and HAL’s effort at indigenous production and you will soon see the contract of HTT 40 (basic trainer aircraft) and LCH (Light Combat Helicopter),” Bhadauria said.


The induction of futuristic fighter aircraft in the second half of the coming decade would also be characterised by self-reliance. “We are committed to the indigenous development of fifth generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) which will be the mainstay of the IAF fighter fleet after a decade or so,” he said.


To bridge the shortfall of combat aircraft until AMCA joins the fleet, Bhadauria revealed that IAF would continue with the long-delayed acquisition of 114 Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA), “which should fructify in the coming decade.”


Asked whether the acquisition of two more Rafale squadrons was a possibility, he termed it “too early to say” and suggested that expanding the Rafale order would result in buying fewer MRFAs.


On preparing for futuristic warfare, Bhadauria said the IAF was “developing indigenous combat systems with 6thgeneration technologies including Directed Energy Weapons, Smart Wingman concept, optionally manned combat platforms, swarm drones, hypersonic weapons” and so on. 


Terming the creation of the post of a tri-service chief “a landmark step”, Bhadauria revealed that the formation of a tri-service Air Defence Command was at “an advanced stage.” 


  1. How can he be so sure ? Does he have 900+ fighter planes with him ?Overconfidence can result in disaster.At the most he can warn the Chinese of heavy casualties if hostilities break out.Its not that we have squadrons of Rafales and stealth aircraft on our side.Even the IAF will sustain heavy losses.

  2. The best possible way to win the war with China is to never fight one.
    India might put up a stiff resistance, our IAF may shower itself with glory, but defeat is a certainty and that is the bitter pill we Indians must swallow. It’s all down to the economy stupid! The organisational skills of the Chinese Are far better, in the end the better resourced and the better organised country wins. As things as they are in India, Gentlemen this is going to be a picnic for China.

  3. India really needs a new chief; the current chief needs a realty check, unless the guy is living in a world of his own. He has no idea what he is talking about: It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who is more capable and well equipped and trained. Remember how 1962 war got started? And remember what India general was saying then?

  4. Sheer bombast, divorced from the realities, completely in style with Gen Rawat.

  5. 2019, IAF lost 1 Mig 21 to PAF JF-17, how IAF is going to fight China which better equipped than PAF? Please stop boasting, we need to face the reality.

  6. There was a worrying January 2013 incident that showed the IAF is not combat ready and is full of personnel waiting to collect pensions.

    "The home ministry has asked the defence ministry to take action against IAF men who had abandoned an injured policeman and an armed helicopter in Chhattisgarh, saying the incident was extremely disturbing.

    Home secretary RK Singh asked his counterpart in the defence ministry Shashikant Sharma to institute an inquiry and take appropriate action in connection with the 18 January incident when Maoist' gunfire had forced an Indian Air Force helicopter to make emergency landing. A state police wireless operator had suffered gunshot injuries in the incident.

    He said the conduct of the IAF men in abandoning the helicopter, their weapons and the injured wireless operator appears to be a clear violation of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).

    This act by the members of an Armed Force of the Union is "extremely disturbing" and "reflects on their battle hardiness", Singh said in a letter to Sharma."

  7. We need to wet lease 40 rafales and purchase 44 rafale (govt to govt deal) additionally to take care of the Chin Pak problem

  8. a pity that raisina hill wil not appreciate that for beijing and the chinese PLA ladakh and arunachal will be the dress rehearsal. after having rehearsed, tested the employment of their battle formations up to the level of live fire exercises in the tibet plateau, just as the spanish civil war was used as a dress rehearsal for the wehrmacht, luftwaffe, kriegsmarine, our bravehearts will be the cannon fodder for testing, fine tuning the PLA and beijing's military coordinators, planners. beijing has recently been paradropping artillery guns, armoured fighting vehicles in eastern ladakh. this has, reportedly, been ridiculed by a retired COAS -" ... “This begets a question as to why did the PLA build roads to their last posts on the perceived LAC if they still have to paradrop military hardware,” said a former Indian Army chief". that our side's military appreciation skills are at this level is unfortunate, given that satellite images confirm the existence and quality of roads. beijing has merely been testing the paradropping of their autonomous AFVs, self propelled artillery guns; weapon systems they have been developing for the last decade. this has been widely reported "the sudden variety of Chinese self driving AFVs is unprecedented in that they are based on existing military platforms, in essence offering the possibility of turning current manned fighting vehicles into future unmanned ones. One autonomous AFV is based on the versatile ZSD-63 tracked APC, whose manned version first entered service in the PLA in the 1960s and has been armed with anti-tank missiles, mortars and auto cannons. The three LIDAR, radar, and video camera stations mounted on the front of the ZSD-63, around its crew hatches, would suggest that in contrast to civilian driverless vehicles like Google Car (which has one), military autonomous vehicles need more sensor data to fulfill recon and resupply missions, and possibly future combat and engineering missions." paradropping on the plains of tibet is not the same as confirming the robustness of systems on the rough country of eastern ladakh. beijing will allow the winter to pass, and watch the heavy casualties our troops will take at the hands of Generalissimo Winter. then next year after we are demoralised with this and, a third wave of covid, they could move in. other than lip service, and selling more and more hardware to us, bankrupting our FX coffers, nobody from the QUAD will care.

  9. The current situation once again warns Indian about growing corruption. Indian system is full of corrupt people who are looking for loopholes even during Corona crisis. Countries with less economy or unorganized structure still can win provided the people have greater mutual trust and honesty. Which clearly lacks in Indian mindset. We still want commission and bribe even during war time, while procuring weapons and armaments from other countries.

  10. After the balakot blunder i have no confidence in the IAF, i am sure in a war with china IAF will be our weakest link. IAF maybe ready to strike but will it be ready when china strikes back ?. or end up shooting it own aircraft like last time. I am sure the IAF will use this crisis to buy more Russian junk, thats the only thing they are good for buying fancy foreign weapons for kick backs and commissions.

  11. The IAF chief needs a realty check. The Chinese are already getting the better of India, and they don't even need to fire one shot: WINTER in Ladakh, just take a look at what shelters do China and India provide for their soldiers. China has thermal shelters which can maintain near 15 degree Celsius temperature inside through out the winter while outside temperature can be as low as -40 degrees Celsius in Ladakh, while India still uses tents for its soldiers. We will see who comes out on top by April next year.


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