Reacting to the the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter being unveiled earlier his week, the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Air Command, Air Marshal SB Deo, said that it was not a cause for concern and that Rafael aircraft being inducted by India also had stealth features. On a visit to the Ambala air base, Air Marshal Deo said that the Indian government is also seized of the importance of acquiring fighter aircraft with stealth features and this is why the Rafale aircraft being acquired from France has some special stealth features. “The radial cross section of the aircraft is significantly smaller for an aircraft of that size. There are many other features too which I would not like to disclose at this stage,” he said.
Commenting on the Chinese J-20, which bears a strong resemblance to the UA Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, the AOC-in-C said that the aircraft seemed to posses front portal stealth features and not in the rear. “It is important to maintain stealth while using your radar equipment, while opening your bomb bay doors to fire and ensuring how a weapon can quickly come out of the rails and go out. I do not know how far this aircraft is stealth,” he said.
He added that the Fifth generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) which is being jointly developed by India with Russia focuses on stealth technology. Older technologies and old radars are very effective against stealth fighters, he said adding that it will be some time before the aircraft like J-20 are operationally fielded but the IAF was prepared.
Commenting on the haphazard construction around air force station perimeters at several places in the country, Air Marshal Deo said these were a potential security risk. “The security officers of the respective stations where such construction is observed, like in Ambala and Pathankot, go to the localities and educate the residents on the precautionary measures that they ought to take,” he said. He added that with advent of time and growth of cities the localities have crept closer to air force stations but due to enhanced security risk these days like the terror attack that took place in Pathankot, extra precautions must be taken by all.
He also said that the localities abutting air force stations were also at risk in case an air accident took place. He said there had been instances even in Ambala where an aircraft has had to abort take off or drop the bombs that it was carrying on the run way itself due to less engine thrust. “This could be very dangerous if not controlled in time,” he added. Giving information about the latest Jaguar crash which took place in Ambala in September this year, he said that this happened due to a bird getting ingested into the engine of the aircraft.
Defending the accident rate of the IAF, he said that the number of aircraft which met with accidents each year has been steadily going down as systematic issues concerning accidents have been addressed. “In 1980s we were losing around one squadron of aircraft each year due to accidents. When we push the envelope we face risks but now our numbers are very good,” he said.
Air Marshal defends himself in suicide case
Air Marshal SB Deo refuted the allegations being levelled on him in social media that he had manhandled or severely rebuked a Wing Commander in Air Force Station Sirsa following which the officer committed suicide. Wing Commander RK Tiwari had shot himself after an inspection had been carried out by the AOC-in-C in which his poor shooting skills were noticed. Air Marshal Deo said there seemed to be an orchestrated campaign against him and that he had not said anything to the deceased officer nor his family members had said anything to him when he met them. He said a Court of Inquiry will ascertain the real cause behind the incident.