Facts in Depth the Manifold Travails of the Indian Air Force
Troubles, They Come in Battalions: The Manifold Travails of the Indian Air Force by
Ashley J. Tellis
Mr. Ashley J. Tellis report “Troubles, they come in Battalions: The Manifest Travails of the Indian Air Force,” is analysis of the current state of the Indian Air Force IAF’s preparedness to face down threats from potentially troublesome neighbors and it finds the country’s aerial fighting force to be inadequate on a number of parameters.
Below are the important facts, findings from the report Troubles, They Come in Battalions: The Manifold Travails of the Indian Air Force by Ashley J. Tellis
The aim of the analysis that follows is to sound the tocsin: to alert Indian policymakers to the risks of losing airpower superiority because of the continuing problems in the IAF’s air defense/multirole fighter force and the importance of remedying these deficiencies for the sake of preserving wider deterrence stability on the Indian subcontinent.
Indian military planners still do not have effective solutions to the possibility of a full-fledged war on two fronts simultaneously that is China and Pakistan
The IAF’s fighter force, as of early 2016, is weaker than the numbers suggest. At nominally 36.5 squadrons, it is well short of its sanctioned strength, and many of its frontline aircraft are obsolete.
China and Pakistan field about 750 advanced air defense/multirole fighters against the IAF’s 450-odd equivalents. The airfield infrastructure limitations in Tibet, however, prevent China from bringing all of its air capabilities to bear against India. Yet after 2025, China could be able to deploy anywhere between 300 and 400 sophisticated air craft against India, in addition to the 100 to 200 advanced fighters likely to exist in Pakistan by then.
The IAF’s desire for 42–45 squadrons by 2027—some 750–800 aircraft—is compelling, if India is to preserve the airpower superiority it has enjoyed in southern Asia since 1971. The IAF’s likelihood of reaching its 2027 goal with a high proportion of advanced fighters is poor.
All three tiers of the IAF are currently in trouble. The Tejas Mark 1 is handicapped by significant technological deficiencies; the prospects for expanding the MMRCA component to compensate for the Tejas’s shortcomings are unclear; and the IAF’s reluctance to proceed fully with the PAK-FA program could undermine its fifthgeneration fighter ambitions.
The IAF should revisit some aspects of its current approach. It should be cautious about expanding the Tejas acquisition beyond six squadrons and consider enlarging the MMRCA component with the cheapest fourth-generation-plus Western fighter available. India should also reassess the decision to develop the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft indigenously and avoid weakening the collaboration with Russia on the PAK-FA program.
The IAF operates a small number of medium UAVs for tactical reconnaissance and maintains some armed drones, such as the Harpy, for the suppression of enemy air defenses. The service’s UAV force, however, does not match the Chinese inventory in numbers or in its diversity of capabilities.
India is still struggling to perfect its Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), the Tejas, which after over thirty years of effort is still not ready for prime time. More important, there seems to be little recognition in the Indian defense research establishment or its national leadership that the IAF’s needs today far exceed the capabilities represented by modest platforms such as the Tejas. On the other hand, China has produced prototypes of two new fifth-generation fighters (the J-20 and the J-31), an impressive fourth-generation multirole aircraft (the J-10) as well as a light combat fighter (the JF-17, which is intended primarily for export and has already been sold to Pakistan)
Based on discussions taking place between Pakistan and China and between Pakistan and the United States, the PAF in the not-too-distant future could operate some 40 J-31 stealth fighters at the high-end; some 100 F-16s armed with among the best U.S. beyond visual-range air-to-air missiles and other advanced air-to-ground munitions, and possibly complemented by a smaller number of Chinese J-10s in the middle; and as many as 250 JF-17s at the low end. The aircraft in all three classes would be capable of undertaking both air-to-air and air-to-ground operations as required.
China has begun “preparing Tibet as [a] future war zone,” as two Indian analysts, Brigadier (retired) Gurmeet Kanwal and Monika Chansoria, phrased it succinctly. These measures encompass wide-ranging investments in road, rail, and airfield modernization, not to mention the development of substantial new logistics and communications facilities, at least some of which are being built underground. By 2025, China could have as many as twelve airfields in the wider Tibetan region
that could be pressed into service in a major Sino-Indian conflict.
Against the aspirational 60 squadrons often advocated as necessary for dealing with the evolving Chinese and Pakistan threats, the Indian Air Force (IAF) today has an authorized end strength of just 39.5 squadrons. This number is supposed to increase to 42–45 squadrons by 2027. the IAF today has only 36.5 operable squadrons against the already inadequate sanctioned strength of 39.5.
Acting upon the IAF’s requirements for a MiG-21 replacement, the government initiated an indigenous development program for a Light Combat Aircraft in 1983 The IAF leadership seemed skeptical about the ability of India’s Defense Research and Development Organization to deliver such an advanced fighter, and the Light Combat Aircraft’s troubled history appears to have justified this disbelief.
the IAF needs a stealthy fifth-generation follow-on fighter if it is to cope successfully with the Chinese J-20 and J-31, at least one of which is poised to enter the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) early in the next decade. The Indian effort at cooperating with Russia to develop a heavy stealth platform, the PAK-FA (Perspektivny Aviatsionny Kompleks Frontovoy Aviatsii), is in trouble and hence the need for the AMCA, a medium-weight alternative, becomes more urgent.
Indian capacity to build a fifth-generation fighter indigenously from scratch is actually nonexistent.
Russia has already agreed to sell the PAK-FA to India, and the United States is open to entertaining Indian requests for the F-35, but neither country is likely to help India to develop indigenous stealth technologies
the Su-30MKI has become a hangar queen in recent years. In a scathing 2015 report, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the national statutory auditing body, found that the aircraft’s overall availability rate hovered at 55–60 percent against the desirable level of at least 75 percent. Significant failures were identified in its engines, flight control systems, and defensive avionics that led to reduced monthly flying hours and, by implication, lowered combat readiness.
The Russian Su-35S is a dramatically improved version of the Su-30MKI Russia sold 24 Su-35Ss to China for $2 Billion. it is highly likely that China will pilfer key technologies pertaining to the AL-41F1S engine, the radar, and the other sensors and slowly incorporate them into its other combat aircraft, thereby raising their overall quality and effectiveness to India’s further disadvantage.
About Author Ashley J. Tellis
Tellis is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace specializing in international security, defense, and Asian strategic issues. While on assignment to the U.S. Department of State as senior adviser to the under secretary of state for political affairs, he was intimately involved in negotiating the civil nuclear agreement with India. Previously, he was commissioned into the Foreign Service and served as senior adviser to the ambassador at the U.S. embassy in New Delhi. He also served on the National Security Council staff as special assistant to the president and senior director for strategic planning and Southwest Asia.
Source – http://carnegieendowment.org
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Monday, March 28, 2016
Tags - Facts the Manifold Travails of the Indian Air Force Ashley J. Tellis
28 March 2016
Facts in Depth the Manifold Travails of the Indian Air Force