On October 3, 2023, the chief of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari, said that the Indian Air Force will boost its capabilities with locally made military hardware, including Mountain Radars for the disputed frontier with China, to look deep inside the neighbour’s territory, long-range surface-to-air missile systems, new fighter jets, upgraded combat planes and light combat helicopters, ballistic missiles, tactical ballistic missiles, trainer aircraft and close-in weapons systems.
The induction of this indigenous equipment into the IAF during the coming years is expected to cost up to three lakh crore rupees, with this year alone accounting for spending of Rs 41,180 crores, Chaudhari said at his annual media briefing ahead of the Indian Air Force Day commemorated on October 8 every year.
Purchases and Upgrades in IAF
The purchases lined up include 97 more Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mk-1A. worth RZs 67,000 crore and 156 Prachanda Light helicopters for 45,000 crores, apart from the project to upgrade 84 Sukhoi-Su-30MKI fighter jets at a cost of Rs 60,000 crore, he said.
Border Situation (LAC)
Continuing, he said that the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China was the same as the previous year, and the IAF would remain deployed along the disputed frontier till complete disengagement took place. The two countries have been locked in a military standoff since May 2020, and a full resolution of the border crisis, though ongoing negotiations still appear elusive.
“We are constantly monitoring the situation at the borders through extensive intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). We make a note of the build-up of resources and capabilities. Our operational plans are dynamic and keep changing based on the situation that we perceive is developing across any front,” Chaudhari said in response to a question about Chinese military buildup along the LAC.
Threats from China
He also drew attention to the vast Chinese air defence network across the border. The sheer number of radar and surface-to-air guided missiles and weapons is quite large, he said.
“In places where we cannot really count the numbers or the might of the adversary, we will deal with the challenges through better tactics and better training, and our focus will remain dynamic and not have a fixed mindset on the deployment of assets in particular areas. We have flexible war plans, which we will keep rising based on the ISR inputs that we get,” he said.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has deployed radars all along the border (northern border), and the IAF is aware of how deep the neighbour can see inside the Indian territory, he said. “Our counter is through our own mountain radar project.
Also, we have low-level lightweight radars that we keep deploying and re-deploying based on what we see developing across the borders In the long run, we are looking at deploying mountain radars at these strategic locations to be able to see equally deep into adversary territory.”
The need to have a strong and credible military has become imperative owing to the volatile and uncertain geopolitical realities and landscape in the region, he said.
New Centre of Gravity
“The Indo-Pacific is the new economic and strategic centre of gravity of the world and offers us challenges and opportunities. The IAF, with its inherent capability to see the farthest, reach the fastest and hit hardest, will be critical in mitigating challenges and will remain a fulcrum in projecting India’s might in the region,” he said.
He said that the contract for 97 more Tejas Mk-1A jets was likely to be concluded soon. This order will be followed by a contract of 48,000 crores awarded to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited two years ago for such fighter jets.
As far as the S-400 Missile system is concerned, the IAF said that the delivery of the S-400 air defence was hit by the Russia-Ukraine Conflict. While three of the five systems ordered from Russia have been inducted, the remaining two are expected only next year.
Responding to a question on the mid-air collision of a Mirage 2000 and Sukhoi -30 MKI on January 28, 2023, the IAF Chief said that a human error led to the accident and the standard operating procedure stood revised and one pilot was killed in the accident. Modern warfare is constantly undergoing transformation due to rapid advancements in technology, he said.
“The IAF, being a technologically intensive force, needs to keep pace with advancements and assimilate new technology to remain relevant. Our focus is on hidden for hidden multipliers in the form of AI-based decision tools, electronic warfare equipment, robust networks and harnessing space and cyber capabilities,” he said.