Military & Aerospace

IAF: Meeting the Challenges - II
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Issue Book Excerpt: Indian Armed Forces | Date : 10 Sep , 2011

Exploitation of Space

One dimension that the IAF would need to exploit is that of space. The intent to do so is evident in its pronouncement to create an IAF Aerospace Command. While the concept of using space based lethal weapon systems may yet lie in the realms of imagination, considerable progress has been made in the regime of communication and surveillance by space based platforms using optical, IR sensors and radar. The scientific establishments in India have made impressive strides in the field of space technology. It would be the responsibility of these organizations to provide the IAF with new capabilities in its drive to be an Aerospace Power.


Perhaps the weakest area that afflicts the IAF today is the inadequacy of training infrastructure. A fighting force equipped with the most sophisticated aircraft, smart weapon systems, complex sensors, space based surveillance & reconnaissance systems, a network centric environment needs to be supported by an equally advanced and sophisticated training environment with computer based training systems, elaborate simulation devices for all disciplines, automated distance learning and evaluation systems, all designed to train for the next war and not the last one.

he type of technological development that took ten years earlier may take perhaps two years in the future. This also means quicker obsolescence.

In this respect, the IAF is at the bottom of the hill. Human resources must be trained well enough to be able to meet with the challenges of new technology and concepts. Not only the training systems and methodology need to be upgraded, the entry thresholds and service conditions also need to be redefined and upgraded significantly to meet with the qualitative requirements of human resources of the future.

Technological Revolution

The closing years of the last century witnessed rapid changes in technology which will have a profound impact on the methodology of air warfare in the future. Emergence of digital and nano-technology will revolutionize military equipment by way of miniaturization and automation. Many of the tasks now performed by humans will shift to machines rendering it possible to reduce manpower in a technology intensive force such as the IAF. Also the pace of change in technology is increasing rapidly. The type of technological development that took ten years earlier may take perhaps two years in the future. This also means quicker obsolescence.

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Advances in technology will also enhance the accuracy and lethality of weapon systems that could translate in to the overall reduction in the size of the force for the same level of commitment. Advances in Information Technology will transform the battlefield of the future in to a Network Centric Environment wherein information from a variety of ground based, airborne or space based sensors would be collected, processed and disseminated to end users in real time and easily comprehensible formats. Network Centric Environment will facilitate speedy decision making at command & control centres, quicker response by forces and better accuracy in weapon delivery. It will be a major challenge for the IAF to remain abreast of technology and reorient doctrine, strategy and tactics to operate in and exploit fully the new environment.


The evolving geo-political and go-strategic situation combined with rapid economic growth has placed India on track to emerging as a regional power with consequent enhanced level of responsibility. There is however no perceptible change in the overall security situation in the subcontinent. Internal security also continues to remain a major challenge for governance. Meanwhile, on account of obsolescence which is inevitable in a rapidly changing technological environment, it is necessary for the IAF to take stock and adopt appropriate measures to ensure that the IAF remains fully prepared to undertake a new range of tasks in its expanded envelope of responsibilities.

Book_Indian_armed_forcesThe IAF needs to redefine priorities and restructure itself to upgrade to the strategic level. As technology will be the force that will drive change in the future, the IAF cannot afford to lag behind. But most important of all, change of mindsets would be a prerequisite for any modernization plan to be meaningful. This perhaps would be the greatest challenge for the leadership.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Air Marshal BK Pandey

Former AOC-in-C Training Command, IAF.

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