New Delhi: IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal VR Choudhari on Tuesday said the force is ready to face any challenge, as he expressed concern over the changing geo-political situation, and talked about maintaining a technological edge over the adversaries.
Addressing a press conference in the national capital ahead of the Air Force Day, the chief said the Force’s capabilities have been enhanced with the induction of Rafale fighter jets, and Chinook and Apache attack helicopters. He also said the S-400 missiles will be inducted in the IAF by the end of this year.
“Past few years have been unprecedented, a series of events have brought forth several challenges. Changing geopolitical situation makes it important to always be ready to respond,” Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said, adding that the IAF was prepared to meet any challenge.
“There is a paradigm change in how wars will be fought in the future. We must develop niche capabilities, we need to be prepared for multi-spectrum wars,” he said.
Asked about a situation of two-front war involving China and Pakistan, the IAF chief said the force was fully prepared, and the focus has been on enhancing the IAF’s overall combat capabilities.
“Upgrading and modernising our inventory has been in focus so that we retain a technological edge. Rafale, Chinook, and Apache have added to our capabilities,” he said.
On airbases built by China across LAC, the Air Force Chief said it does not affect the IAF’s operations. He also said that the enhanced deployment by China may be due to the ongoing infrastructure work across the border.
“The situation on the Line of Actual Control is that the Chinese Air Force is still present on three air bases on their side of the LAC. Talks about the disengagement process are going on. It does not affect the operations of the IAF, we are fully deployed and prepared on our side,” he said.
Talking about the aircraft in the IAF’s inventory, Air Chief Marshal Choudhari said the force should have around 35 squadrons in the next decade.
He said the Mig 21 fleet would be around for a few more years, but would be gradually phased out. The Jaguars, Mirage-2000, and Mig-29 would be gradually phased out by the end of this decade.
The Air Chief Marshal said the drop in the numbers would be catered by 83 LCA Mk-1A, for which contract was signed last year, and deliveries are to start from 2024.
He said for the rest, the IAF is looking at the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) programme of the DRDO and ADA, which is scheduled to be rolled out by the end of this decade.
While he refused to comment if the Rafale was a preferred contender for the MRFA, he said the force is “very happy” with the performance of the French fighter jet.
To mitigate the gap, an RFI for Multi Role Fighter Aircraft has been floated. He said the IAF is looking towards a generation 4.5 aircraft, with ability to integrate 5th generation and 6th generation technology.
Amid reports of China deploying Russian S-400 missile systems close to the India border, the IAF chief said India would be getting its S-400 missile systems later this year as per schedule.
Asked about the theaterisation programme, he said the IAF is fully committed to it, adding that discussions are required before new structures are put in place. “Various options are being discussed among three forces,” the IAF chief said.
He also stressed on the need for higher integration of the three forces.
“IAF is keen on integration among armed forces. Joint operations will result in the maximum of our capabilities, which is the need of the hour,” he added.