Sending a tough message to China amid the Ladakh crisis, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said Monday that the IAF is “determined to handle any contingency” and its “deployment of combat-ready units in response to the standoff along the LAC in the North is indicative of our operational state today”.
Stating “we are very well positioned and there is no question that in any conflict scenario there that China can get the better of us”, Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria, responding to a query on whether the IAF had come close to carrying out strikes against China after the Galwan Valley clashes, said: “Did we come close to striking? No. But were we prepared for it? Yes.”
Addressing the press ahead of the IAF Day, he said the situation along the LAC over the next three months will largely depend on how talks between the two countries progress.
“Talks towards disengagement followed by de-escalation are on. And we do hope that the talks progress along the lines that are expected. The current progress is slow. What we see is an increase in efforts to dig in for the winter, in terms of forces on ground, in terms of deployment of air assets in the airfields close by.”
He said Indian forces are also taking actions accordingly. “The whole focus is on talks… our further actions will depend upon the ground realities”. He said “there is no step-up in terms of air assets deployment” by China.
“Our offensive strike capability has been honed with upgradations and new inductions of weapons and platforms, ably supported by combat enablers and a networked decision-making environment, including an integrated approach to handle incoming threats. We have the largest strategic airlift capability in our region comprising IL-76, C-17 and C-130 platforms. We have significantly enhanced our helilift capabilities with our helicopter inductions,” he said.
“Our airlift capability was also brought into focus as we supported the Indian Army in rapid mobilisation of troops and equipment to operational areas at a pace which our adversary didn’t expect,” he said.
“Our position as a credible combat-ready force is vital given the role the air force will play towards ensuring victory in any future conflict… we have grown from being a tactical force to a strategic one with trans-oceanic reach,” the IAF chief said.
“The emerging threat scenario in our neighbourhood and beyond mandates the need to have a robust capability to fight across the entire spectrum of warfare. We conduct bilateral and multilateral exercises with leading air forces of the world. And let me share with you with confidence, that operationally, we are among the best,” he said.
The IAF deployment in Ladakh, he said, is a “very small part of our deployment. We have deployed across all relevant operational locations required to access this area”.
“Be rest assured,” he said, “we are firmly in place to handle any contingency.”
“We are aware that China and Pakistan are cooperating closely, and Pakistan now is increasingly dependent on China for their defence supplies, and they are doing a lot of exercises together… this activity, in terms of their bilateral exercise, is on the increase.” But, he said, “it is not to say there is a sign that it is a collusive threat… we are deployed for a two-front war”. He said, “there is no such indication” and India is “observing all the activities across”.
He said it was not correct that Indian forces were surprised by the PLA. “We realised what the Chinese PLA was doing in May, and we acted swiftly, both Army and Air Force. To say we were surprised is not really correct. We were surprised in the sense that they normally do their exercises in this period, and it was not expected that they would utilise this period and do this attempt at the LAC,” he said.
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