Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa

“The IAF is prepared 24 x 7 for any threat and is ready for a befitting response to any contingency. The IAF has already proposed a roadmap to the MOD for induction of fighter aircraft to build up to the sanctioned strength of  42 fighter squadrons 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,” said  Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa PVSM, AVSM, YSM, VM,  ADC Chief of the Air Staff  in an exclusive interview with Aviation & Defence Universe (ADU) , on the occasion of Air Force Day, 2017. 

ADU.  Please give an update on the steps being taken to reach the strength of   42 jet fighter squadrons by the end of the 13th Plan (2022)?                                                            

CAS. 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. The induction of fighter aircraft contracted for includes Light Combat Aircraft, Rafale and the balance of Su-30 MKI aircraft.  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 and 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).

ADU. The “sub-conventional threat” at all fronts needs specialised training.  What has been your strategy to train officers and men for this type of warfare?      

CAS. The GoI has very recently given considerable financial powers to strengthen base security to all the three services. The IAF has also done a comprehensive security audit of its installations. All these measures will enhance our capability to counter sub conventional threats to our bases. The IAF is fully prepared to render all necessary assistance to counter sub conventional threats to India.

 ADU. How does IAF plan to meet the requirement of mid-air-refuellers now that the A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) deal is cancelled?                                                                                               

CAS. The IAF is exploring all available options to procure additional Flight Refuelling Aircraft (FRA).

ADU. Is the VVIP helicopters programme absolutely at a stand still?

CAS. The VVIP helicopter contract was terminated on 01 Jan 2014.  The VVIP role is being met by employing Mi 17 V5, which have been modified for this role.

 ADU. What is the status-quo on the Rafale procurement, as you have visited France recently and seen it first hand?                                                                        

CAS. The Inter Governmental Agreement (IGA) was signed on 26 Sep 16 for supply of Rafale aircraft and the contract implementation is in progress. All important milestones of the contract so far have been achieved on time.

ADU. Will IAF put itself in the driving seat to determine what cutting edge technologies it wants from the public and private sectors to achieve the desired operational capabilities?                        

CAS. Modern Air Forces are necessarily technologically intensive organisations, however a fine balance is required to be maintained between must possess and could possess technologies. Though cutting edge aerospace technologies for military applications come with a very high price tag, its procurement is a must to maintain an optimum level of defence preparedness and technological edge against our adversaries. In this respect, the IAF has always been supporting and participating in Research and Development activities. The coordination between IAF and DRDO/ Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), Private sector industries/Research institutions has always been good and the future technologies desired by IAF have regularly been communicated to them.

ADU. When do you think the Replacement of AVRO deal will start yielding results?                  

CAS. This is the first major initiative of GoI towards ‘Make in India’.  The programme envisages delivery of 16 aircraft in fly away condition from the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) in the 2nd to the 4th year after contract signature and the balance 40 aircraft will be manufactured in India. This is the first major initiative of building a military transport aircraft in Indian Private Sector.

ADU. What is the status of modernization of the existing airfields and activation of the airfields?      CAS. Modernisation of Airfield Infrastructure (MAFI) Project (Phase-I) is in progress at thirty IAF Airfields. Project has been divided into 5 Batches of 6 Airfields each. As on date implementation has been completed at 23 airfields. Six airfields located in the Area of Responsibility (AOR) of EAC have been included in MAFI (Phase-I). Eight Advanced Landing Grounds are also being upgraded.

ADU. What is your take on the permanent Chief of Defence Staff which again has gone on the back burner from government’s agenda?

CAS. The IAF has always been of the firm view that there is a need to work together to achieve synergy. The creation of Permanent Chairman Chief of Staff Committee (COSC) is an ongoing process and has been supported by the three Services.  He would thus be the fourth four-star officer who would also be responsible for the various Tri-Service Commands. The Service Chiefs however, will continue to exercise operational control and training over their respective Services and have direct access to RM. The proposed set up will allow HQ IDS under Permanent Chairman COSC to function as an effective advisory system to the Government on matters of policy, joint acquisitions, joint capability building and joint training matters. The issue is still under consideration by the political leadership.

ADU. Has there been a positive effect on the IAF with MoD’s revision of the financial powers delegated to the services for revenue procurement?

CAS.It is intimated that with the implementation of Delegation of Financial Powers to Defence Services 2016 (DFPDS-16) wef 06 Sep 16, inherent powers for the CFA’s have been restored which has expedited meeting of operational requirements and has resulted in greater utilization of IAF Budget. In this regard, it is for consideration that during the FY 2016-17, the funds allotted under Other Than Salary (OTS) Segment have been fully utilised. Moreover, the expenditure trend of this financial year as compared to corresponding period of previous financial years indicates considerable improvement in the expenditure pattern. Hence, it is evident that the procurement cases have hastened resulting to expeditious utilisation of revenue budget and achieving Case Management System (CMS) target.

ADU. Have the capital procurement procedure committee report recommendations helped IAF to take decisions on capital procurement to meet their needs?  Please explain with examples.         

CAS. Based on the recommendations of a Committee of Experts DPP-2013 was revised to facilitate the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the GoI, remove bottlenecks and simplify procedures. Accordingly, Defence Procurement Procedure – 2016 (DPP-16) has introduced specific provisions that will act as a growth stimulus to the domestic defence industry. For the first time ever, provision to procure equipment with enhanced performance parameters has been included, which will enable the armed forces to procure the most advanced weapon systems available in the market. Further, DPP-16 provides greater impetus to the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), with certain category of ‘Make’ projects reserved exclusively for them. The Acceptance of Necessity (AON) for LCH & LCA have been accorded as per the procedure specified under DPP-16 and the Request for Proposal (RFP) is likely to be issued shortly.

ADU. How is ‘Make in India’ being helpful in filling the deficit IAF is facing?                             

CAS. The IAF has fully supported the ‘Make in India’ initiative and several important procurements and projects have materialised as a result of this synergy. The IAF has already inducted the LCA and AON has been granted for  additional LCA Mk1A with enhanced capabilities. Similarly the ALH series has been in service for some time now and the armed version has recently been inducted. We have also inducted the Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft this year. The indigenous Akash Short Range Surface-to-Air Missile (SRSAM) is operational and more numbers are planned to be added. Some other important indigenous projects are the LCH, Avro replacement, Pechora digitisation and Close In Weapon System (CIWS). Another area where the IAF has benefitted from ‘Make in India’ has been Radars, be it the Indra, Rohini or Ashlesha Low Level Light Weight Radar (LLLWR). Arudhra Medium Power Radar (MPR) has been developed and Ashwini Low Level Transportable Radar (LLTR) is under development and will be inducted in due course of time. IAF is planning to acquire Single Engine fighter aircraft through Strategic Partnership route. Another major program where the IAF is providing support is the indigenous AMCA.

ADU. Where does the Long Term Perspective Plan (LTPP) of Indian Air Force stand and has it been helpful in accelerating the induction process and give a full spectrum capability?                           

CAS. Modernisation is a continuous process and the IAF has ensured its modernisation plan is in consonance with the roadmap laid down in the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP) which specifies the capabilities that the armed forces need to acquire over a 15 year period. Modernisation is achieved by continuous up-gradation of the existing equipment and induction of new weapon platforms and systems.  The capital procurement thus arrived at, is processed in accordance with the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), which lays down the procedures and timelines for the same. Procurement of state-of-the-art platforms and systems are in pipeline and will further enhance the full spectrum capability of the IAF.

ADU. Has Indian Air Force been successful in operating the Integrated Space Cell to utilize more effectively the space-based assets of the country for military purposes?                                                

CAS. Dte of Ops (Space), Air HQ (VB) has been successful in co-ordinating with ISRO, DRDO and NTRO etc in effectively utilizing the space based assets for meeting IAF operational requirement, Integrated Space Cell at HQ IDS, drives the joint space segment requirement of three services.

ADU. What is IAF doing to make the force a career of choice for Indian men and women and fulfil its shortage of officers?                                                                   

CAS. There are no major shortages in the Officers’ cadre of the IAF.  IAF is certainly a preferred career option amongst our sister services.  However, during various drives it was observed that there is a general lack of awareness amongst the youth towards the opportunities available in defence forces.  Hence, in order to enhance the awareness levels, all possible media including social media are now being used.  Various drives and efforts are made on   pan-India basis. An Induction Publicity Exhibition Vehicle (IPEV) has also been inducted with an on-board flight simulator. This bus has undertaken four drives in the past and has received a very good response.  It is currently on a drive to Himachal Pradesh.

ADU. How near are we to giving permanent commissions to women fighter pilots in IAF?

CAS. The induction of Women into the fighter stream is part of an experimental scheme with the first batch of three women fighter pilots having been commissioned into the IAF on 18 Jun 16.  Presently three women pilots are undergoing Hawk Stage-III (F) II training. The scheme is at a very nascent stage and is intended to examine the future combat employment philosophy i.r.o women and examine the aspect related to employability of women in the fighter stream of the flying branch based on thorough analysis of this experiment. Next Batch of three women trainees in fighter stream were inducted in Jul 17 for Stage-II (F) Training at AF Stn Hakimpet. These three trainees on successful completion of their training would get commissioned in Dec 17.