Faced with a sharp fall in the number of its operational fighter squadrons that is expected to worsen over the next few years, the Indian Air Force has informed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence that it will be difficult for it to handle a “collusive threat from Pakistan and China but it has made plans for the contingency”.
A senior IAF officer has told the committee that the current squadron strength of combat aircraft stands at 34 against the authorised 42 and even with the induction of all Su 30 MKI fighters on order, this would not increase over the coming years unless the medium multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA) deal is signed.
Expressing concern over the IAF’s ability to deal with a two-front war, the top unnamed officer has told the panel that in case aggressive operations are started against India by the Chinese side, it is “very likely” that a collusive threat would be posed by Pakistan. The officer has also been quoted as saying in a panel report tabled in Parliament Tuesday that in case Pakistan is the aggressor, there is little chance of China joining in.
“Collusive threat will be difficult to tackle but we are prepared for it. We have made plans in case of contingency III (two-front war),” the officer is quoted as telling the panel.
Top IAF officials are discussing the declining squadron strength and have informed members of the panel that most existing MiG aircraft that make a bulk of the fighter strength are to retire in a gradual manner by 2025.
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In its recommendations, the panel has expressed concern over the matter and has noted that despite the induction of all fighters currently on order, the squadron strength shall not increase over 34 as a large number of fighters are retiring.
Blasting the Defence Ministry for poor planning, the panel has said the squadron strength could have been increased to 42 by the end of 2017 and has put its weight behind the fast conclusion of the MMRCA deal.
“With regard to acquisition, the committee are very particular about the Rafale MMRCA about which they recommend that negotiations should be completed at the earliest, procurement to be accelerated and every effort be made to avoid any kind of delay,” the panel report says.