Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa Thursday said the possibility of a two-front war remains low but the Indian Air Force (IAF) is prepared for any eventuality despite a shortage of fighter aircraft. He also said that the Chinese forces are still present in Chumbi Valley on Sikkim border but he expects them to withdraw soon.
“Their (Chinese) forces are still deployed in the Chumbi Valley. We expect these forces to withdraw as exercises get over,” Dhanoa said. Chumbi Valley lies east of Sikkim and was the site of the face-off between Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China at Doklam plateau from June 16 to August 28.
“Possibility of a two-front war in the current geopolitical situation is low. Our response should be based on enemy’s capability because intentions can change overnight,” the Air Chief said at an annual press meet ahead of the Air Force Day on October 8.
Two-front war refers to a collusive military threat from China and Pakistan at the same time, and is part of the Defence Minister’s directive issued to the three services. Last month, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had asked India to be prepared for a two-front war.
“We need 42 squadrons for full spectrum of operations. But it does not mean that we cannot fight a two-front war with the existing strength. We have a Plan B for reduced strength, there are ways in which we can carry out the task,” the Air Chief explained.
Stating that the IAF was more than matched to take on the Pakistan Air Force, he said it is also equipped to take on the Chinese Air Force. “It is not what China has got, it is what they can project against us. It is what they can bring in to Tibet, it is what they can or can’t do from Tibet… our capability is adequate,” he added.
Dhanoa said the IAF will reach its authorised strength of 42 fighter squadrons by the end of the 15th plan. “By 2032, we will reach 42 squadrons. With whatever numbers we have, we are capable of executing operations as we speak”. He also said that the forthcoming acquisitions of Tejas, Sukhoi and Rafale fighter aircraft will mean that the number of fighter squadrons will not go below the existing level of 32 squadrons. With the induction of single-engine fighters, after choosing between F-16 or Gripen fighters under the Make in India programme as part of the strategic partnership model, the number of squadrons will start going up, the air chief added.
Responding to a question about the air force not being used for the surgical strikes against Pakistan, the IAF Chief said that the use of army or air force for “surgical strike is a decision to be taken by the government of India”.
Dhanoa also said that after the induction of the first batch of three women pilots into IAF’s fighter stream last year, three women cadets have been selected to undergo fighter pilot training at Air Force Academy in the current batch. They will pass out of the academy in December.
PTI adds: Chief of Air Staff B S Dhanoa said the IAF has the capability of locating and striking nuclear and other targets in Pakistan. The comment came when he was asked at the news conference about global concerns over the safety of Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons and whether IAF would be able to disarm Islamabad of its nuclear assets if necessary. “We have a draft nuclear doctrine. It is answered in that — what happens when the enemy decides to use nuclear weapons on us. As far as IAF is concerned, it has the ability to locate, fix and strike and that is not only for tactical nuclear weapons but for other targets across the border (as well),” he said.