Defence Industry

Indian Air Force of the future
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
Issue Vol 24.1 Jan-Mar2009 | Date : 16 Feb , 2012


A completely new dimension in future wars would be the employment of space-based assets for reconnaissance, surveillance and communication. There has been some progress in this area but much more needs to be done. However, the new problem that is emerging is the security of the space-based assets. There appears to be no clear solution at this point in time except for multiple redundancy which may be expensive and impractical. In addition to space-based assets, the IAF needs to acquire the capability to neutralize space-based capability of the enemy through hard or soft kill techniques with weapon systems located on the ground or mounted on airborne platforms.

Power Projection Capability

A major responsibility of the IAF in the future would be in the area of strategic airlift. Internal security compulsions will place growing demand for the movement of quick reaction as also regular security forces within the country on short notice.

To provide effective air defence of the homeland, the IAF needs to acquire a fleet of AWACS and AEW aircraft over and above the few already on order to enhance surveillance capability at low level.

Given its emerging regional power status and the newly forged strategic partnership with the US if not abrogated by the incoming administration, India may be called upon to project power in the region which may involve airlift of large military forces to areas of interest of either of the partners in the region outside our borders and to provide sustained logistic support. Strategic airlift capability of the IAF would therefore need to be built up practically from scratch as the existing fleet is fast approaching the end of its total technical life.

At the tactical level, the IAF should be equipped with a fleet of medium tactical transport aircraft and helicopters capable of speedy response with special forces over shorter ranges.

The IAF has taken some baby steps towards acquiring the capability of projecting combat power in the region. At this point in time, the capability is limited to a token force and cannot be described as significant. However, while steps are in hand to augment the existing fleet of long range combat aircraft as also to acquire a new fleet, the capability of power projection would in the ultimate analysis be limited by the size of the fleet of in-flight refuelling aircraft. This fleet would have to be suitably enlarged for any meaningful power projection that is capable of making an impact.


To summarise, the IAF needs to enhance some of the force multipliers already on the inventory as also to develop a range of new capabilities both in the strategic and tactical regimes. At the strategic level, the IAF must be able to provide the nation with credible nuclear deterrence against Pakistan and China. Also, it should be capable of power projection in its perceived area of national security interests and those of our ally in the region beyond the national borders with combat aircraft, in-flight refuelling and strategic airlift capability. These forces should be geared to provide swift response to a crisis situation and be able to provide logistic support to sustain forces for significant length of time. For strategic strike deep into enemy territory, the IAF needs to have a combination of missile based and airborne platforms, the latter with powerful electronic warfare equipment to suppress and defeat enemy air defence systems. Tactical roles may be transferred to UCAVs and helicopters.

To provide effective air defence of the homeland, the IAF needs to acquire a fleet of AWACS and AEW aircraft over and above the few already on order to enhance surveillance capability at low level. New generation area and point defence missile systems need to be inducted to replace the ageing and obsolete systems currently deployed. For strategic and tactical intelligence, the IAF must have its own satellite systems and a fleet of UAVs with a range of advanced sensors to provide all weather day and night capability. The fleet of UAVs should be adequately supported by appropriate ground infrastructure for automated and speedy processing of intelligence information, and fleet of tactical transport aircraft and helicopters for quick response with special forces.

It goes without saying that in future wars, the IAF must be geared to operate in a network-centric environment. But perhaps most important of all, there is the imperative need for the IAF to shed the defensive mindset.

1 2 3
Rate this Article
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
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.

More by the same author

Post your Comment

2000characters left