Lt Gen JS Bajwa – Editor Indian Defence Review (IDR) had the unique privilege to interview the Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari, PVSM, AVSM, VM, ADC, prior to the Air Force Day on 8th October 2022. Details of the candid response of the Chief of Air Staff to the IDR’s pointed questions are given below:-
Q. The IAF has expressed its reservations with regard to the creation of an Air Defence Command. How will an Air Defence Command impact on availability of resources, command and control of Air Defence Assets and thereby the over capability of the IAF?
Ans. The IAF’s stand is in consonance with the practices followed by professional Armed Forces across the world. Technological developments, availability of resources and CONOPS for conducting air operations cannot be exploited to their fullest if resources are split into Air Defence and other proposed structures.
The need of the day is thus to be able to create and maintain flexibility in the conduct of air ops with a capability to dynamically swing all assets from offensive to defensive roles and vice versa, as the need may arise.
Air Defence operations are inextricably linked to Counter Air Operations, as the success or failure of one, will dictate the demands on the other. AD and offensive missions are interdependent and if executed in isolation, these would not only be disjointed but also ineffective in design or execution of the joint strategy.
Q. A robust ‘Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance’, deployment is crucial for preempting an adversaries designs and preparing own effective repost/quid pro quo. China, (and Pakistan, by virtue of being wholly dependent on China), has a fairly advanced Electronic and Cyber Warfare capability. How does the IAF plan to electronically secure itself for conduct of effective air operations?
Ans. IAF has proactively worked towards maintaining a high degree of cyber alert state. To ensure security of its critical information infrastructure, we regularly upgrade ourselves with the latest tools and technologies.
We have a dedicated Security Operations Centre as well as an Internet Security Operation Centre to provide information assurance to our IT and Communication networks. We also have a dedicated Computer Emergency Response Team which works in close conjunction with other external agencies to identify, contain, eradicate and recover during cyber incidents.
As far as EW is concerned, the IAF has adequate EW equipment and infrastructure to thwart any misadventure by the enemy – either in air or on ground. This could be Radar or Missile Warning receivers, Self-Protection Jammers, Ground or air based Electronic intelligence units, processors, networking of equipment and all other facets of EW.
There is also a push for indigenous development of these systems and some are already in the process of being inducted.
Q. China has evolved the concept of Anti-Access Area-Denial (A2AD) using its strategic and tactical missiles under the PLA Rocket Force. The Ukraine War has demonstrated the effectiveness of the large number of conventional war missiles being used by the Russians. How does the IAF plan to counter this threat, to prevent degradation of its own defensive and offensive air operations?
Ans. A2AD concept has been examined and analysed. Suitable measures have been adopted to prevent degradation of our assets and capability. These vary from various defensive and offensive options.
Q. Drones are encroaching into the once exclusive domain of manned military aircraft. Be it for long duration ISR tasks, armed drones and now even loitering munitions or euphemistically referred to as ‘suicide drones’ or ‘kamikaze drones’. Will such drones be inducted into the IAF in sizeable numbers to augment the effort of manned aircraft?
Ans. Drones have proved to be very powerful tools and have played a very effective role in recent conflicts. IAF is mindful of the changing nature of warfare and the utilization of drones in different operational roles. Based on our own operational requirements, the procurement of such systems for the IAF is in process.
We are also actively pursuing various programs to develop UAS of varied classes and roles. These include Manned Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T), Air Launched Flexible Assets – Swarm (ALFA-S) and Tactical Interdiction & Attack Air Vehicle (TIA-AV 50).
Q. It is visualised that in the future, a core competency of an advanced air force will be the ability to provide precision strike, with accuracies less than two metres from an aim point in a short time. These PGM’s will be ‘smaller, lighter, agile, more lethal, and more affordable’. An arsenal of advanced cruise missiles, autonomous miniature munitions, hard-target munitions and robotic micro-munitions to attack deeply buried hard targets, hypersonic missiles to strike rapidly and at long range, and precision thermoflux weapons generating long-duration very high temperatures. Where does the IAF stand in including these PGMs in its arsenal?
Ans. In the recent years, the IAF has inducted a large number of modern weapons and now has an arsenal of cruise missiles and standoff weapons. These weapons provide IAF the capability of engaging strengthened and well defended targets from safe stand-off ranges.
There is a continuous dialogue with DRDO and private industries for design and development of next generation weapons, both air to air and air to surface. The accuracy of these weapons is also improving with each new version.