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Equipment and Force Structure Requirements to Meet External Threats 2032

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  • January 18, 2013
    Fellows' Seminar

    Chair: Air Marshal Anil Chopra (Retd), AVSM
    External Discussants: Wg Cdr Vikram Munshi, Wg Cdr Amit Goel
    Internal Discussants: Wg Cdr Ajey Lele, Cdr SS Parmar

    Major Highlights of the Paper

    This paper addresses the equipment and force structure required to meet external challenges 2032. The current paper is second in the series of four papers that Gp Capt Kapur intends to do on a project “IAF Deep Multidimensional Change 2032: Imperatives and a Roadmap.” The previous paper was “Challenges for IAF 2032.” The next two papers in the series are “Organisational Structure Optimisation,” and “Organisation and Technology Issues Related to the 2032 IAF.” The critical role of Air Power post World War-II has been well established. Indian Air Force is no exception and hence its battle readiness is of utmost interest to our military planners. The paper therefore discusses a very important element of combat readiness, i.e. equipment support and force structure. While equipment support and force structure is only one out of many aspects of combat readiness it is perhaps the most important one.

    The paper makes a comparative study of the Indian Air Force (IAF), the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and the Chinese Air Force (PLAAF). Since PAF and PLAAF have posed serious security challenges before the country in the past and are likely to pose the same in the future, the study makes a comparative assessment of their strength and weaknesses in order to put the IAF’s requirements in perspective. The author’s projection takes into account the likely scenario of a two-front war, involving both China and Pakistan. The paper forcefully argues that numbers (Squadrons and aircrafts) even in this hi-tech age matter for engaging the enemy. This projection of requirements is also based on the estimated sortie generation capability of the three forces. Significantly, the paper shows that the Indian Air Force has an edge over the Chinese Air Force in this regard.

    Since the North Eastern border is the most likely theater of war with China, the paper gives a detailed assessment of the requirements of the IAF to ensure its combat readiness. After taking into account geography, infrastructure & reach factor, the combat efficiency comparison of IAF: PLAAF comes to 1.4:1.0. Another important finding of the paper is that the IAF needs 724 (40 Sqn)/ 929(52Sqn) fighter aircrafts in North East and North to counter Chinese threat for a clear victory.

    Given India’s rising power status, engaging in Out of Area Contingency Operation (OOAC) is likely and India may be asked to play an increasingly important role in such Ops. The paper therefore looks into this aspect and suggests the need for Special Forces and heavy lift capability. It projects the need for deployment of one Division size force of the army requiring IAF’s provision of airlift through 1 Sqn C-17+1 Sqn C-130J/ MTA for OOAC. Further, the need for an expeditionary air base capability has been highlighted.

    The paper ends with a set of specific recommendations. Some of the important recommendations in the paper are:

    • Infrastructure build-up including roads/ rail/ and Modernisation of Air Field Infrastructure (MAFI) should be accorded highest priority.
    • Induction of BMD should be done in phases.
    • Upgradation of electronic warfare and information warfare capabilities must be continued as planned with greater vigour.
    • Separate OOAC force under Joint Expeditionary Command should be set up.
    • IAF should actively push forward technological development in-house and in collaboration with universities/ labs and similar competent institutions.
    • MoD should explore the possibility of developing expeditionary airbase forces.
    • IAF must expedite its build up towards the sanctioned 45 squadrons and then look at further force development to be able to meet these external challenges well.

    Major Points of Discussion and Suggestions to the Author:

    • The number of fighter planes and Squadron strength recommended in the paper is slightly on the heavier side and it can be rationalized by incorporating inputs from serving and retired military professionals.
    • In nuclear age full fledged war is at best a remote possibility. Similarly, the advent of long-range missiles has reduced the heavy dependence on aircrafts. These factors should also be kept in mind before arriving on any numbers.
    • The study would benefit by undertaking scenario building exercise about the kind of threats that India will face in the next two decades time. Projection of requirements should be based on the nature of threats.
    • The study could benefit by incorporating a tabular chart of the inventory of the three air forces (IAF, PAAF, and PLAAF). It will give the reader a comparative perspective.
    • China’s military modernization plan is time-bound and it sticks to its deadlines, whereas the Indian modernization plan is not shaping as desired.
    • The increased strength of the IAF both in terms of Squadron strength and availability of aircrafts has to be supported by a commensurate level of infrastructure in order to make them operationally viable.
    • Tactical and technological aspect is more important than the numerical superiority as far as war fighting goes. In this regard, the paper would benefit by focusing on cyber capability and information warfare capability of the IAF.
    • The restructuring of MoD is long overdue. One Joint Secretary looks after Army and Air Force. This situation must change for the better.
    • IAF needs to focus on the service aspect of aircrafts, which leaves much to be desired. Better serviceability of aircrafts in effect means more number of aircrafts available for operational jobs.

    Report prepared by Amit Kumar RA IDSA