At least 42 fighter squadrons essential, says Indian Air Force chief - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.
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Tuesday, 4 October 2022

At least 42 fighter squadrons essential, says Indian Air Force chief

Providing air defence to India's huge geographical space requires a large number of combat aircraft (Photo: An IAF Rafale fighter)

 

By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 5th Oct 22

 

The Indian Air Force (IAF) chief, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhary, stated on Tuesday that the IAF needed to have its squadron numbers up, even if achieving the goal of 42 squadrons appeared difficult at the moment.

 

Given the number-plating (retirement) of about 15 existing squadrons of fighters between now and the middle of the 2030s, even a best case scenario of induction of new aircraft would raise fighter squadron numbers by seven, to 39 squadrons.

 

Listing out the incoming aircraft, Chaudhary said two squadrons of Tejas Mark 1 had already been inducted and four squadrons of Tejas Mark 1A were on order. In addition to those four, and to another six squadrons of Tejas Mark 2, “the IAF was committed to” six squadrons of the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) and six of the multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA), making up 22 squadrons due for induction. 

 

Chaudhary said the 4.5-generation MRCA had been tendered for and the IAF was evaluating vendors’ responses. He said the global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that had responded had given their commitments for ensuring indigenous content and Made-in-India solutions.

 

Meanwhile, 15 fighter squadrons would retire over this decade, said Chaudhary. Three MiG-21 BISON squadrons had already retired and the remaining three squadrons would be phased out in another three years. 

 

“Those would be followed by retirement of the Jaguar fleet [which has six squadrons]. From 2025-26, the first lot of Jaguars would be phased out and the depletion would continue till 2032-33. That is the time when the three upgraded Mirage 2000 squadrons and the three upgraded MiG-29 squadrons would start depleting on having completed their total technical life. So by that time, three squadrons of BISONs, six squadrons of Jaguars and three each of Mirage 2000s and MiG-29 would have been number-plated (retired),” said Chaudhary.

 

That would create a net gain of seven squadrons by the mid-2030s. Given the IAF’s current holding of 32 squadrons, that would mean the air force would be operating a fleet of 39 combat aircraft in 2035-36.

 

The IAF chief ruled out making do with less than 42 squadrons, even though the induction of multi-role aircraft and force multipliers such as mid-air-refuellers and airborne warning and control aircraft, would make the IAF a far more powerful force.

 

“Quantity matters when it comes to conflict with the adversary across the large geographical space we have to contend with. It is important for the air force to have persistence and strong air defence capability around the clock. We have to maintain a 24x7 air defence capability all across India’s airspace, so numbers are important. Given the current state of the air force, it is essential to build up the numbers,” said the air chief.

 


 

Aircraft

Squadrons in 2022-23

Squadrons in 2035-36

Remarks

 

 

 

 

Rafale

2

2

2ndsquadron being inducted

Sukhoi-30MKI

13

13

13thsquadron being built in Nashik

Mirage 2000

3

Nil

Upgraded Mirages to exit by 2032

MiG-29UPG

3

Nil

Upgraded MiG-29 to exit by 2032

Jaguar IS/IM

6

Nil

Exit starts 2025, finished by 2032

MiG-21BISON

3

Nil

Exit to be completed by 2025

Tejas Mark 1

2

2

Entered IAF service

Tejas Mark 1A

Nil

4

To be built by 2025-27

Tejas Mark 2

Nil

6

To be built by 2032

AMCA

Nil

6

To be built by 2035-36

MRCA

Nil

6

To be built by 2035

TOTAL

32

39

 

 

 

 


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