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, VSM on the occasion of 89th Anniversary of IAF on 08 Oct 2021. Details of the candid response of the Chief of Air Staff to the IDR’s pointed questions are given below:–
What is your visualization of the future role of the Army Aviation Corps? Does it impinge on that of the IAF?
Army Aviation Corps was formed to meet the requirements of Indian Army. The Stage-I training of pilots of Army Aviation is undertaken by the IAF at its Basic Flying Training School (BFTS), Prayagraj. Procurement of similar helicopters required by the services is done jointly with the nomination of a lead service, examples being the LCH and LUH. Helicopters of IAF and IA are employed as per service specific tasking and role.
Under the concept of “theaterisation” how does the IAF envisage the optimal effectiveness of its overall resources for the larger objective?
At the outset I must say that while reorganization of our structures and enhancing jointness is an imperative, we must find our own solutions for our peculiar problem set. We have a unique situation of having long land borders, near peer adversaries and the entire spectrum of conflict from sub conventional to hot war being a distinct possibility. As far as the IAF goes, in order to gainfully utilize the inherent advantages of air power, our planning is centralised, while the execution is decentralised.
Resource availability and effective utilization of strengths of each Service is certainly a reason for careful thought in creation of joint structures. Basic principles and peculiarities of air asset employment and optimisation needs to be kept in mind while arriving at any decision on the subject. We are working to arrive at an optimum solution in a joint and consultative manner. We want to look at different options and shape the best possible future ready solution, rather than a quick or easy one.
Technological advancement has enhanced the capability of the IAF’s air assets manifold. However, there is still talk of the IAF being a 42-45 squadron force. In a two front threat scenario and given the multi-role capability of air assets and their increased effectiveness with Precision Guided Munitions’, Mid-air refueling, higher level of maintenance leading to reduced downtime and quick turn round; is this number of squadron still valid?
The combat requirements of the IAF are planned to be met through synergistic employment of a mix of air assets each specializing in a given role based on its capabilities. Therefore, application of force is an intelligent mix of number and capabilities. In the end each airborne platform has its own utility in the overall scheme of operational employment. While looking at the numbers conundrum, it would be useful to consider that the volume of airspace to be defended and the relative technological parity with our adversaries has not changed. The concept of reduction of squadron numbers purely stemming from an increase in own capability is not valid from an operational perspective. Having said that, we constantly evolve our force requirements based on the current and projected threat scenario.
China has evolved the concept of Anti-Access Area-Denial (A2AD) using its abundant conventional missile capability, inter alia. How does the IAF plan to counter this threat, for effectiveness of its defensive and offensive air operations?
IAF has continued its focus on hardened aircraft shelters and long range precision weapons, apart from missile defence technology at a national level. We are constantly upgrading our infrastructure to sustain operations. Our present and planned long range weapons would give us the capability to successfully mitigate threats and give a calibrated response.
Future multi-role aircraft are becoming exorbitantly expensive because of the rapid advancement in technology related to avionics. While the airframe and hardware has a considerable shelf-life the avionics need upgrade at a much faster pace. Are such avionics upgrades possible under the “Bharat Athma Nirbharta” scheme now or in the near future?
The answer is an unqualified yes. The Indian aviation eco system has evolved over the years to give us some world class products in the field of sensors, networking, weapons etc. We have already carried out indigenous upgrades of the MiG-27 and the Jaguar, and many incremental enhancements to the Su-30MKI have been carried out within the country.