IAF Chief ACM VR Chaudhari all set to meet the media pre-AF Day
IAF Chief ACM VR Chaudhari all set to meet the media pre-AF Day

By Sangeeta Saxena 

New Delhi. 04 October 2022.  This was an Indian Air Force Chief’s press conference of many firsts. First after the war broke out between Russia-Ukraine, first after the recent disengagement at LAC in Eastern Ladakh, first after Chinese fighters came very near Indian borders, first after the bomb hoax  Iranian Mahan Air’s flight flying over Indian airspace and first after the appointment of the new CDS. The event was the media interaction to commemorate 90 years of the Indian Air Force and the IAF Chief faced the volley confidently without dodging.

Air Chief's PSO,s
                                Air Chief’s PSO,s

Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari reiterated that Indian Air Force (IAF) is not against the tri-services theaterisation plan but wants to ensure that its doctrine is not compromised in any way by the proposed changes. He added that no single service can win wars on its own and this holds good even for the future. IAF Chief told the nation that  air power has the unique capability of undertaking independent strategic operations as well as operations coordinated with sister services and  the model of integration adopted by India’s armed forces must be future-ready, reduce levels of decision-making and lead to an organisational structure best suited to India’s conditions and geopolitical imperatives.

“We are not opposing any process of integration and any process of theatre commands. We have certain reservations in respect to the structures. We are fully supporting the integration process, it is only the methodology and the kind of structures that need to be future-ready, is what we are insisting on. Each service has a doctrine. The doctrinal aspects of the IAF should not be compromised in any way by the new structures,” he said.

Indian Air Chief maintained that the force has taken adequate non-escalatory measures and is prepared for worst-case scenario to deal with air intrusions. He said, “disengagement has taken place in areas along the LAC. We are keeping an eye on Chinese Air Force activities. We have increased the presence of radars and air defence networks. Appropriate non-escalatory measures have been taken in time”. He was responding to a question on  recent incidents of Chinese fighters flying close to the LAC and also informed that in case of any airspace violation the IAF will use Indian Army’s hotline to communicate with the Chinese.

Air Chief also answered in detail to the query  on the recent Iranian Mahan Air flight after its pilot chose to continue to fly to China’s Guangzhou when asked to land in Jaipur or Chandigarh.  The IAF was reported to have scrambled Su-30MKI fighter jets to shadow the plane after inputs were received from Lahore’s Air Traffic Control (ATC) about a possible bomb threat. The threat, however, later turned out to be a hoax. “The primary method of suspension of any aircraft, which is suspected to be a rogue aircraft. The first method is with the help of fighter aircraft, which are on readiness. You can signal to the pilots onboard or anybody else who has taken command of the aircraft that they are being followed, and they can be destroyed. As per the given standard operating procedures, the response was to scramble fighters… initially two of them, from a base in Punjab. And then, thereafter, another two followed the aircraft,” he elaborated.

CAS with Author & Editor ADU
                      CAS with Author & Editor ADU

In ADU’s question on the development in filling the deficit created in the mid-air refueller section, ACM Chaudhary informed that as of now the force has planned to procure 6 for which RFI has been issued.” It may take some time for the entire procurement process to fructify. Since we have enhanced the scope we have increased the scope to used aircraft modified for refuellers. In the meanwhile we have got AON for wet leasing for the aircraft and RFP should be issued shortly,” he said.

Chaudhari also maintained that the IAF is being transformed into an aerospace force. “We see space as a natural extension of the air medium and we understand the need for exploiting this domain. Space-based assets significantly enhance the potency of air power and therefore our strategy is to fully integrate our air and space capabilities to have a common picture of the aerospace medium and to enable optimum force application. Traditionally, wars were fought on the land, sea and in the air. Today, newer domains like cyber and space are increasingly affecting the conduct of operations even in the traditional realms. To absorb these changes, the IAF is on the path of transformation so that we can fight and win tomorrow’s wars,” he added.

Perseverating on IAF’s  commitment towards indigenisation he said,“we have pushed indigenization for the past few years. We get 62,000 components from the Indian industry and there is no shortage of spares or supplies so far because of Russia-Ukraine war. In the next few years, we are looking forward to inducting LCA Mk 1A, HTT-40 trainers, indigenous weapons, and different radars. The LCH has been inducted into the Air Force yesterday and I am confident that the helicopter will add teeth to the IAF’s strike capability. We are fully committed to the development of LCA Mk 2 and AMCA. The induction of C-295 aircraft is a step in the right direction and will boost the Indian aerospace manufacturing ecosystem.”

Media waiting in expectancy for Air Chief's interaction
Media waiting in expectancy for Air Chief’s interaction

On a question over IAF’s aim of 42 squadrons IAF Chief confirmed that even though the force was looking at the quality and technology of fighters, numbers still mattered. He stated that there was no question of a review of its sanctioned strength of 42 fighter squadrons, even though its current numbers have fallen to 30.  He added that even  if the entire planned procurement happened without any glitch or time delays, the IAF might just about reach 35 squadrons, against a sanctioned strength of 42, by 2035-36.

“As the battlefield of tomorrow transforms and becomes more technology-driven, we too are innovating to stay ahead of the curve. I want to assure the citizens of the country that the IAF is ready to take on the future and we’ll continue to touch the sky with glory,” the IAF Chief exhorted.

On the occasion IAF’s  Vice Chief Air Marshal Sandeep Singh adding to the Chief stated that , “the environment around us remains hostile and there would be a requirement for 42 squadrons of fighter aircraft by the Indian Air Force. We have to see the case of China and Pakistan also. In the last many years, we have been upgrading the Su-30 with indigenous weapons like the Astra air-to-air missile and the BrahMos missiles. The sensors are also indigenous and we have been doing it indigenously.”

On the issue of gender parity in the force the Air Chief informed that the inclusion of females in the Agniveer scheme is on the cards. “We are looking at 10 per cent females in the Agniveer scheme. We’re looking at the fleets where we can use them and grow as time comes. We will accept them in the trade and fleet with an open mind,” he said.

This press conference set the stage for another first – the shifting of the Air Force Day Parade which is traditionally held at AirForce Station Hindon to Air Force Station Chandigarh. ADU will get you live this display of India’s air power from the city of Chandigarh.

Team ADU with CAS : Editor Sangeeta Saxena & Chief of Bureau Chaitali Bag at the annual press conferenec of IAF 
Team ADU with CAS : Editor Sangeeta Saxena & Chief of Bureau Chaitali Bag at the annual press conferenec of IAF