Interview | Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa PVSM, AVSM, YSM, VM, ADC

The IAF is Working Closely With The DRDO For an Indigenous 5th Generation Fighter Development Programme Called The AMCA

Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh DhanoaSince there is yawning gap between the IAF’s war-doctrine for two-fronts and the capabilities at hand (especially combat aircraft) and in the pipeline, there are two choices: to draw-down the ambitious war-doctrine or to get the desired acquisitions fast-tracked. What is your strategy of balancing the two and how?

The IAF is prepared for any threat and is ready to give a befitting response to any contingency with the available resources.

As far as drawdown in the strength of fighter squadrons is concerned it is being given due emphasis. We are upgrading MiG-29, Jaguar and Mirage 2000 aircraft in a phased manner. Induction of 36 Rafale aircraft will commence in September 2019 and will significantly enhance our operational capability.

Induction of balance of Su-30 from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is also under progress and will be completed by 2020. The induction of more Light Combat Aircraft is in progress. Also, the government of India plans to procure fighters under the ‘Make in India’ initiative for which RFI was issued this year. If all inductions take place as planned the IAF is expected to achieve its authorised strength of fighter squadrons by 2032.


What military reforms, according to you, should be initiated to optimise war-fighting outcome?

Critical reforms that are required to optimise war-fighting outcome are integration of the Indian armed forces for joint planning and integration of resources for force application. As a starting point, higher defence organisation needs to be revamped to include appointment of Permanent Chairman Chief of Staff Committee and need to represent the army, navy and the air force in the ministry of defence (MoD) at appropriate levels, to integrate them with the respective service HQ. This will create an efficient mechanism that understands defence acquisition needs of the Indian armed forces.

Arming the defence forces with latest technology, cyber and space capability is a pre-requisite to win tomorrow’s war. Technology solutions for battlefield transparency in the form of enhanced air and space based ISR capability, artificial intelligence embedded IT solutions for monitoring progress of the battle and latest weapon technology would be critical to have an edge in optimising war fighting outcome.


The IAF has reportedly sought to increase the strength of Garud. What ideal strength of these Special Forces would be required, for what administrative and operational purposes, and what additional equipment and platform would be needed to do the desired tasks?

The government of India had initially approved 15 Garud flights in September 2003. Subsequently, approval for 12 additional Garud flights was given in May 2012. The proposal for 23 more Garud flights is being progressed. IAF is looking at creating 50 Garud flights which would be dispersed at 50 IAF bases (prioritised as per the threat level) to meet administrative and operational objectives.

The new raisings will be equipped with equipment similar to the one being used in present flights to meet these objectives. The platforms required for the desired tasks are already available with the IAF.


What capabilities is the IAF looking for in a fifth-generation aircraft? How do you propose to start work on the fifth-generation aircraft?

The capabilities envisaged in a 5th generation fighter aircraft broadly consist of stealth, super-manoeuvrability, super cruise and the capability to internally carry long range stand-off weapons. The IAF is working closely with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for an indigenous fifth generation fighter aircraft development programme called the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). Two prototypes of the AMCA have been proposed and await government sanction.


How critical is the need for space command for the IAF and why? With the government having sanctioned a space agency under the Integrated Headquarters (administrative headquarters), what work is the IAF doing with ISRO for exploitation of the space domain?

The Defence Space Agency would have the mandate to cater to the needs of the services through the medium of space. Since all threats emanating from space would transition through air, it is imperative that the continuum of air and space be under the purview of a single service which is domain competent and capable to tackle threats through that medium.

At present, IAF’s space interests are coordinated with ISRO through Directorate of Ops (Space). This Directorate handles design and development of communication satellites and acquiring satellites bandwidths that are required to meet IAF’s specific needs.


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