Do not have numbers to fully fight two-front war: IAF
In a candid admission, the IAF on Thursday said that given its depleting strength, it does not have the adequate numbers to “fully execute” an air campaign in case of a two-front war involving Pakistan and China simultaneously.
It also sought more 5th generation fighter aircraft over and above the 36 Rafales since it was a requirement. The revelation by the IAF comes at a time when the squadron strength of the force has come down to 33 in comparison to the sanctioned strength of 42.
Of the 33, a very large chunk is made up of Russian origin Su-30 jets, the front line fighter aircraft of the country.
However, the serviceability ratio of the aircraft is very poor with the figure hovering around 55 per cent. This means that out of 100 aircraft, only around 55 are available at a point of time with the rest being bogged down in service.
“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 asked if the IAF has the capability to fight a two-front war if it breaks out tomorrow.
IAF sources said that 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.
“We have conveyed our concerns to the government. Government is seized of this problem and the reason why the government signed the 36 aircraft (Rafale) on G2G basis is because of urgency that they felt because of the depletion in squadron numbers,” Dhanoa, a Kargil war veteran said.
Asked if there is a requirement for more Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) type aircraft besides the 36 Rafales, he said yes.
“There are various avenues that are being explored. There is a requirement for us to buy a MMRCA class aircraft more than the 36 numbers that we have signed. Which platform may come in, that is something between us and the government. We (both) will have to take a call,” he said.
Deputy Chief of the IAF Air Marshal R K S Bhadauria said that a decision on more aircraft will be take only after the conclusion of the contract for 36 Rafale fighter jets.
Asked how many more MMRCA type aircraft is the IAF looking at, Bhadauria said he would not like to go into numbers. “I am not going into numbers. MMRCA, you are aware of total numbers (126 fighters). We are getting 36 out of that. So there is a leftover there and we will take a rather holistic view of overall numbers,” he said.