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

‘The IAF is Interested in Avenger Class of HALE UAV and Will Consider This Case, if Offered by The US’


Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh DhanoaWhat is the roadmap (including timeline) to make up the authorised 42 combat squadrons?

The IAF has already proposed a roadmap to the ministry of defence for induction of fighter aircraft to build up to the sanctioned strength of 42 fighter squadron and also modernisation. Augmenting the strength of our fighter squadron is our top priority. To achieve this, the IAF is looking at new inductions and mid-life upgrades.

Towards this, MiG-29, Jaguar and Mirage-2000 aircraft are being upgraded in a phased manner to enhance their combat capability. Weapon shortfalls are being made good and survivability of assets in the East is being given top priority by necessary infrastructure hardening. The induction of fighter aircraft contracted for includes LCA, Rafale and the balance of Su-30 MKI.

Acceptance of Necessity (AON) has also been granted for procurement of LCA Mk 1A. Further, the government of India plans to procure fighter aircraft through the ‘Strategic Partnership’ model. Other suitable options are also being considered to ensure that the IAF attains the authorised strength of fighter squadrons. If all the inductions take place as planned, the IAF is expected to achieve its authorised strength of fighter squadrons by the end of 15th Plan (2032).

How do you intend to provide fillip to the medium category (twin-engine) fighters’ shortfall considering that the government has signed for only 36 Rafales? Russian MiG Corporation director general, IIya Tarasenko has recently claimed that they are in touch with the IAF for the potential sale of MiG-35. Is this correct?

The IAF has a healthy balance between single engine and twin engine fighter aircraft. With the induction of the contracted Rafale aircraft, the number of twin engine fighter aircraft will improve further. The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) is at design and development stage. There is currently no IAF proposal for purchase of MiG-35 aircraft.

What is the update on the FGFA? Are you keen on the FGFA considering the DRDO is going ahead with AMCA and it would be difficult for India to financially support two fifth generation aircraft?

The case for procurement of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) from Russia is with the MoD. The IAF is supporting the AMCA programme whole-heartedly.


The IAF seems to have a requirement for about 22 Flight Refuelling Aircraft (FRA). How and in what time-fame do you intend to procure them? Why have you asked for refueller pods to be installed on DRDO-made AWACS (based on A-330-200)?

The FRA is undeniably an important combat support aircraft and we are working towards achieving 100 per cent mid-air refuelling capability. We are exploring options to procure additional FRAs.


Considering that the DRDO’s Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle Ghatak is still at the concept stage, how do you envisage procuring UCAVs? Are the US Avenger UAVs a priority for you?

Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) development is being undertaken by very few countries and the underlying technology is heavily guarded. The IAF is participating in lead activities towards design and development of the ‘Ghatak’, which is an indigenous UCAV. The IAF is also interested in Avenger class of HALE Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) and will consider this case, if offered by the US.


What is the update on Astra air to air missile induction into the IAF?

Astra missile has been successfully fired from Su-30 aircraft. The Limited Series Production (LSP) version of the missile will be inducted in the IAF shortly followed by development of Astra New Generation (NG) with longer range.


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