Viewing deplorable condition of its air force, the India’s idea of an all-out war with Pakistan and China seems to be far-fetched.
The capability of the Indian Air Force (IAF) was exposed in February this year when it locked horns with its Pakistani counterpart and lost its two fighter jets and got arrested Indian Wing Commander Abhinandan.
The poor state of the IAF in comparison to its Pakistani counterparts was admitted by a 35-member Indian parliamentary committee on defence in 2015. The parliamentary body had raised concerns on acute shortage of pilots and aircrafts.
A report of the committee had noted that “even the slight edge over rival neighboring nations would be lost if complacency remains”. According to the committee the Indian IAF officials rued that the number of active fighter squadrons was (35) seven short of the sanctioned strength of 42, and it could further decline in coming years.
“With regard to this, representatives of air force deposed before the committee that a drawdown has already begun and, by 2022, air force will have around just 25 squadrons, thereby losing even the slight edge over rival neighboring nation,” the Diplomat quoted the committee as saying.
The report had revealed that the IAF’s fighter aircraft to pilot ratio was 1:0.81, less than the authorised figure of 1:1.25. While, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF)’s fighter to pilot ratio was 1:2.5, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reported.
In a bid to meet the critical shortage facing the IAF, the Indian government had to strike a deal with Paris in April 2015 to purchase 35 Dassault Rafale multi-role fighters.
Researcher Manoj Joshi in Observer Research Foundation wrote, “The Indian Air Force’s problems with numbers is no secret, It has been plagued by poor decision-making, poor acquisition strategy and shoddy quality control and contract delivery.”
Talking to media on the sidelines of a seminar on ‘Modernisation and Indigenisation plans of the Indian Air Force’ on Tuesday, Indian Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa had acknowledged
“Our (Russian-made) MiG-21 aircraft is almost 44 years old and which I can fly. I am sure no one would like to drive a car of that vintage,” the Indian air chief said adding that even Russia was not flying the MiG, but India was still using it.
“The fifth-generation fighters are a reality and the next generation fighters are already on the drawing board. Can we afford a victory with such losses? If there is no war, we cannot wait for indigenous technology to replace obsolete warfighting equipment,” said Dhanoa.
MiG-21 are used and discarded by dozens of countries around the world and are regarded as “flying coffins”. At least 170 MiGs have been lost in different mishaps in the past 10 years.
In February this year, the PAF shot down MiG-21 during a dog fight.