Millennium Post

Shortfall of fighter aircraft threat to deterrence: Experts

The IAF officially, of course, say that they need the government’s help in procuring medium, multirole combat aircrafts (MMRCA) and the light combat aircraft (LCA), to fill the increasing gap in ‘squadron strength.’

In response to an e-mailed questionnaire to the IAF, it has said, ‘The early conclusion of the MMRCA contract negotiations and speedy production of the LCA by HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd) are critical for arresting further drawdown in the strength of combat squadrons. Achieving a strength of 42 squadrons is dependent on a large number of intangibles, and is likely to materialise only by the end of the 15th Plan period.’

An IAF veteran said, ‘Whatever numbers you have, you build up on that. The serviceability factors of all equipment become an extremely important factor. Although aeroplanes constitute the projection factor, anybody monitoring can see activities around the bases see that aircrafts, and then see the pilots and others, think that there something going on there.’

The sounds of jets, the optics of the busy bases, all constitute the milieu of giving that there is activity. Exercises, though they are dummy exercises, gives off the sense that there is training going on there. ‘So, from the chief down to the Maintenance Command – the commander-in-chief and the air officer-in-command – all focus on those issues. The supply chain (for components) becomes an important factor,’ says the veteran flier.

‘The depletion of fighter squadrons can only be made good through new inductions. The IAF has plans to induct fighter aircraft as replacements, which are at various stages of procurement or development,’ the official line went.

In terms of training, there is no change in the real with the concepts. ‘The combined training imparted at Air Force Academy (AFA) for pilots of stage I is for a duration of six months. During this period, a total of 55 hrs of flying hours on Pilatus PC-7 trainer aircraft is done.’

The IAF officially stated, ‘During the stage II training, the pilots are trained for six months for various streams of aircrafts.  For fighters, it (the training aircraft) is Kiran, for helicopters it is Chetak and for transport it is Dornier-228. During this stage, the approximate flying hours are 87, 82 and 82 for  fighters, helicopters and transports respectively.’

Clearly, the IAF’s strategic role – conceived by itself – in a war is dependent on what they do now, even if it is hobbled.
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