NEW DELHI: In a startling revelation, the Indian Air Force (IAF) admitted on Thursday that it may not be able to fully execute an air campaign in case of a two-front war involving Pakistan and China simultaneously. The admission has cast doubts on the country’s defence preparedness.
The reason for concern is that the IAF squadron strength has come down to 33 as compared to the sanctioned strength of 42.
The IAF is looking forward to purchase 5th generation fighter aircraft over and above the 36 Rafale aircraft. Of the 33 squadrons, a very large chunk is made up of the Russian Su-30 jets, the frontline fighter aircraft of the country.
“Our numbers are not adequate to fully execute an air campaign in a two-front scenario. Probability of a two-front scenario is an appreciation which you need to do. But, are the numbers adequate? No. The squadrons are winding down,” Air Marshal B S Dhanoa, Vice-Chief of the IAF said addressing a press conference here. He was responding to a query if the IAF has the capability to fight a two-front war if it breaks out tomorrow. Dhanoa said the force had conveyed its concerns to the government. “Government is seized of this problem and the reason why the government signed the 36 aircraft (Rafale) deal on G2G basis is because of the urgency,” he said.
IAF sources said a two-front war is not a likely possibility for the next few years and in the meantime, the force hopes to come up with the required capability. Further compounding the problem is the time required for keeping the aircraft fighting fit. The serviceability ratio of the aircraft is very poor with the figure hovering around 55 per cent. This means out of 100 aircraft, only 55 are available at any point of time.
Referring to Pakistan, Dhanoa asserted that the sale of eight F16s to Islamabad by the US does not drastically alter the air power balance in the region but admitted “it makes my life more difficult.”