New Delhi, March 10 (IANS) The number of fighter aircraft squadrons with the Indian Air Force (IAF) is not enough to fight a war on two fronts, Vice Chief of IAF Air Marshal B.S. Dhanoa said on Thursday.
“Our numbers are not adequate to execute an air campaign in a two-front scenario… Probability of a two front scenario is an appreciation which you need to do. But are the numbers adequate? No,” Air Marshal Dhanoa said.
He said the government was seized of the problem, and that was the reason why India went for government-to-government deal for Rafale fighter aircraft “because of the urgency”.
The Air Marshal was addressing a press conference on the upcoming Iron Fist exercise of the IAF.
He said the IAF at present had 33 operational squadrons. When a new squadron of Light Combat Aircraft Tejas would be inducted later this year, the number will rise to 34.
The sanctioned strength for the IAF at present is 39.5, which is sought to be raised to 42. A parliamentary panel report last year had said that by 2022, the IAF will have just 25 squadrons, losing “even the slight edge over a rival neighbouring nation”.
IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha has said in the past that at least six squadrons of medium multi-role combat aircraft are required.
Air Marshal Dhanoa agreed that more Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) will be needed.
“There are various avenues that are being explored. There is a requirement for us to buy a MMRCA class aircraft more than the 36 numbers that we have signed. Which platform may come in, that is something between us and the government. We (both) will have to take a call,” he said.
Deputy Chief of the IAF Air Marshal R K S Bhadauria said that a decision on more aircraft will be take only after the conclusion of the contract for 36 Rafale fighter jets.
He also admitted that the delay in procurement of Rafale has upset the plans of IAF.A
“The acquisition of MMRCA has taken really long. It has affected our plans,” he said.
Air Marshal Dhanoa also said that increasing serviceability of the existing fighters can help.
“If we have 35 squadrons and 90 percent serviceability, it will be as good as having 42 squadrons,” he said.
He refused to reveal the present level of serviceability of aircraft, and said the target for now was to reach 75 percent.