Letter from the Editor | October 2021

Like ennui that usually follows euphoria, Indian Air Force seems to be in a strange place right now. Nothing could be more reflective of this sobering sentiment than this IAF special issue. The grandiose vision and bold ambitions of the last decade have been replaced by the grim realization that today the best aerospace minds—think leaders—and the community of senior ex-servicemen have to run really hard to ensure that the service remains where it is. Given that the serving officers are bound by the service rules, as well as the fear of government strictures, the burden of holding the IAF’s share of the sky, lest it starts slipping, has devolved to the veterans.

If this sounds less than celebratory, then just read the articles that form part of FORCE IAF special. The charge is led by an officer, now part of the IAF thinktank, who is defending the service against the allegation of being petty to the extent of putting service interest above national interest. The source of this angst is the hurriedly pushed through restructuring that is based on creation of integrated theatre commands.

For a long time, analysts, including in India, have been exercising the idea of the air force emerging as the lead service in war. This was based on the assumption that given the technological transformation in warfare, the air force would be better placed to not only absorb these changes but also employ them. These ideas led the IAF projecting itself beyond its present capabilities in the belief that at least the right ideas were in place.

All that now seems to be in a distant past. In the chief of defence staff Gen. Bipin Rawat’s military view, the IAF is nothing more than a support service which is meant to assist the land war. His idea of integrated theatre commands stems from this. It not only bifurcates the air power but also reduces its prowess. Clearly, all this will affect the IAF’s share in the defence budget, in addition to further rationalisation of its procurement plans. It is this fear of the diminution of the service that has gripped the air warriors. Hope their concerns are heeded. On that note, Happy IAF Day!

The second strand in this issue is India’s relations with the US, in view of QUAD, and now the surprise baby AUKUS. Of course, the optimists insist that AUKUS would in no way impact QUAD, but clearly, the US has realised the limitations of latter’s utility. So, it has created another basket to put its prized eggs there. Lessons for India in this.





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