BENGALURU: Air Chief Marshal Birendra Singh Dhanoa, Chief of Indian Air Force, said there is no real threat from China as the airstrips in Tibet region are not meant for operating combat aircraft. Speaking at the 10th Air Marshal L M Katre Memorial lecture held in the city, the Air Chief said that even in the recent Doklam standoff, there had been no such threat. “There was no doubt that the armed air forces of both the countries under confidence building measures have maintained more than 10 km distance from the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Throughout the standoff, there was no violation either from our side or from their side, except that the helicopters were seen ferrying supplies,” he said.
“I met an air commander of Chinese air force when he had come to Bengaluru for the Aero India show. We both shared the view that we must continue to meet frequently on ground so that we can stay away from each other in the air,” he said.
The IAF chief pointed out that China maintains continuous air presence in Tibet. “Their strength increases or decreases as per the prevailing exercise. But if you have a look, if you go to Google Earth and look at the satellite images you will find out that the airfields in Tibet region are not optimised for aggression. They are more optimised for regional connectivity. There are other airfields which are more than 400km away. Some of us have started counting them and say that there is a threat,” he said.
“It is difficult to sustain air operations from where they are located on the Indo- Tibetan border. In case the relationship deteriorates, the first step anybody takes is to build up infrastructure,” he added.
Rejecting the criticism that the IAF does not participate in joint operations, he pointed out to the role of IAF right from the days of 1947 to the Kargil war.
On the indigenisation of the Air Force, the Air Chief Marshal said that the country has two nuclear armed neighbours with whom the country has fought wars. “So what are the options for us with two nuclear armed adversaries? If there is going to be no wars, we can wait for indigenous solution to come in its time, or we start replacing low-end weapons first with indigenously developed ones, while we import the best ones to defeat the enemy,” he said.
Speaking about various defence equipment that are replaced by indigenous weapons, he said that the country’s indigenous drive lacks quality control, but was quick to add, “it has shown an improvement over the years, but there are miles to go.”
Stating that the IAF has lost over 17 pilots and engineers during testing and evaluation of indigenous aircraft prototypes, he concluded that IAF does not pay only lip service to indigenisation. On this occasion, he also appreciated the performance of indigenous aircraft Tejas. IAF squadron strength will not come down as there are more LCA variants coming in, he said.
Speaking on this occasion, Suvarana Raju, CMD, Hindustan Aeronautical Limited, said that the LCA production has already been launched and five aircraft will be ready by the end of this year. “By March, 2017 we will complete eleven aircraft, which will be going into 41st squadron,” he said.
“We are investing `531 crore to increase the capacity to produce eight aircraft. For next year, we have given the major module to
L&T and few more companies, so that the number of LCAs produced will be 16. We are keeping the men trained and ready to increase the production,” he said. Many private firms manufacture components for fighter aircraft.