India Urgently Needs Fighter Squadrons

Emphasising induction of modern aircraft to sustain and enhance the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) combat potential, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari has said that force urgently needs 5-6 squadrons of 4.5 generation aircraft. Air power remains the most potent means of prosecuting war. It provides long range, precision, and flexibility. Modern fighters are omni-role, thus can do multiple missions in a single sortie. The ranges have been extended with aerial refuelling. The AEW&C gives cover deep in enemy territory.

India is one of the most threatened nations in the world. It has two nuclear weapon-possessing neighbours. With both there are serious boundary disputes, wars and border skirmishes. For long it is very clear that for ground or sea war to be won there is a need for dominance in the air. The fighter aircraft remains the most potent platform for both offensive and defensive operations. While many are predicting the future to be unmanned, practically all the fifth and sixth generation fighters that will see the world through this century are evolving as manned fighters.

The IAF today is at an all-time low of 30 fighter squadrons. The government has already announced that the four remaining MiG-21 Bison squadrons will be retired by 2025. In this period, only around two squadrons of LCA, at best, will induct. This would mean further depletion of the squadron strength. At the same time Pakistan Air Force (PAF) currently has over 450 fighter aircraft in 22 fighter squadrons. China has nearly 59 fighter brigades in the theatre commands with each having 24-28 aircraft. Additional 20 plus Brigades are with the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) HQ at Beijing. China also has additional air power with the PLA Navy (PLAN) with nearly 500 aircraft and an expanding number of aircraft carriers. Clearly India’s neighbours are expanding air power. Significant part of the PLAAF may be committed on China’s Pacific front, but air power’s speed and flexibility allows forces to be brought to bear in other sectors in a short period.

J-20 Fighter. (Photo: Wikipedia)

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