A week go, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had declared that India is prepared to face a “two-and-a-half front war”. His statement refers to the country’s military preparedness in case of a simultaneous war with Pakistan and China as well as dealing with the internal issues of militancy or terrorism.
But his counterpart Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa seems to have a different view. In an interview with the Indian Express , Dhanoa highlighted the severe shortage of fighter squadrons in the Indian Air Force.
He went on to compare it “to a cricket team playing with seven players instead of 11”.
To dominate a two-front conflict, the IAF requires 42 fighter squadrons, he said, but India currently has 32.
While writing for The Quint, former international affairs editor, CNN-IBN and NDTV, Surya Gangadharan said that the air force is keen to build up the number of squadrons to 42 by 2026, which is what the government has also mandated, but this will “take time to achieve”.
... The MiG-21s and 27s are due for phase-out next year; the Jaguars date back to the 1970s, which leaves the Sukhois, MiG-29s and Mirage squadrons. This is still formidable but senior commanders warn that they would be severely tested if a two-front situation arrives.Surya Gangadharan
Gurmeet Kanwal, Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), in his article for The Quint had pointed at the “large-scale deficiencies in ammunition and important items of equipment” that adversely affect India’s readiness for war and “the ability to sustain military operations over 20 to 30 days”.
Kanwal went on to say that the “modernisation of the armed forces” is proceeding at a slow pace due to various reasons like inadequacy of funds, rigid procurement procedures, frequent changes in the qualitative requirements, the blacklisting of several defence manufacturers, etc.
When asked about the possible option of an “aerial surgical strike” against Pakistan in the event of a terror attack, the Air Chief told IE:
The use of air power in response to heinous acts or terrorist attacks is an option that is to be taken by the government. IAF is prepared for any eventuality.
He also commented on the IAF's capability to take on the Maoists saying it can strike “as and when we are cleared to do so by the government”.
...We do not envisage carrying out air attacks on our territory, to prevent any sliver of possibility for collateral damage.
He stressed on IAF’s desire “to have independence for execution” when questioned about the proposal to create Integrated Theatre Commands of the Army, Navy and the IAF.
Air power needs space for manoeuvre to exploit its varied characteristics of surprise, shock and speed. If restricted to one sector, the potential of this arm of the military will not be optimally exploited and thus, the Air Force desires to have independence for execution so that the purpose of conflict is best served.