India Is Buying The Right Fighters While Preparing For Two Front War
Colonel Awadhesh Kumar, Special Forces
Till now the TWO FRONT war was being talked about by many analysts in an offhand manner. Today it is staring at us as a reality and in fact now forcing us to cater for a five front war ie the North Western Front (J& K and Ladakh), South Western Front (Punjab down to Goa), Southern Front (from Karnataka up to Andhra Coast, Andaman & Nicobar and Indian Ocean Region), Central Front (Himachal up to Bihar) and Eastern Front (Arunachal to Sikkim, and down below up to Odisha coast).
To fight a war without an insurmountable stress, Air Force needs more fighter Squadrons with new fighters, transporters, helicopters and force multipliers like AWACS and Refuelers. China plans to be the number one military and economic super power of this world by 2050. Seeing what it is doing to India and to the rest of the world in 2020, we can easily guess its intentions for 2050 onwards.
Unarmed tussle with the Chinese forces have been going on since 1993, to stop their periodic intrusion across the LAC on the Indo Tibetan border. However now the gloves are off as Chinese have killed 20 Indian soldiers in an attack across the disputed India-China LAC running along the Indo Chinese border in the Himalyan mountain range. In the bargain the Chinese to their surprise too lost 56 personnel as killed. So next time if there is any intrusion by the PLA anywhere along the 3450 km LAC, they are surely going to be repelled by heavy gunfire like it had happened in 1967 at Nathu La.
The above means that our Forces have to be fully prepared from now onwards for all eventualities. By 2045, we need to have a Force level in place to not only prevent China from interfering with our way of life but to also help close friends, incase they are threatened by the Dragon.
To keep the article short, here we will talk about only the IAF build up. Hundreds of analysts including IAF Officers, serving and retired have already brought out all the factors that will impinge on Air warfare in the Indian Subcontinent and the Indian Ocean Region. Keeping all of that in mind, what should be the ideal Force level of the IAF by 2045 ?
The IAF needed 45 fighter squadrons, yesterday itself, much before Doklam and Galwan incidents. They are needed pretty badly without ifs and but’s and with speed.
Displaying common sense, MoD it seems has already placed a $780 million order with Russia for 21 x MiG 29s and 12 x SU30 MkI. This is a real solid decision taken with speed, no matter what a few have to say citing Air Patrols in the mountains and what not.
The Indian Air Force had planned to buy these quite some time back.These purchases are not directly related to Galwan episode, though it has certainly helped speeding the decision.
Presently we have in our kitty 6x MiG Bisons Squadrons, 6x Jaguar Squadrons, 3x MiG 29 Squadron, 3x Mirage 2000 Squadron, 15x SU30 MkI Squadrons and 2x Tejas Squadrons ie total of 35 Squadrons. By 2022, IAF should be adding 2x Rafael, 1x refurbished MiG29 and 1x SU30 MKI Squadron,thus bringing the total to 39 Squadrons.
The refurbished MiG 29s will be upgraded to the standards of currently upgraded MiG 29s with IAF and supplied fastest by Russia. These are superb fighters and all IAF fighter pilots who have flown this, swear by it. They will happily take on the F16 of Pakistan and J20 of the Chinese.
Now what New Delhi has to do is to go all out through Mission based Project teams to ensure the following :
• Delivery of 4x Tejas MK1A Squadrons by HAL to IAF by 2025
• Delivery of 6x Tejas Mk2 Squadrons to IAF by HAL/ Others by 2030
• Place orders for 2x Rafael Squadron for delivery by 2026 by France
• Delivery of 1x AMCA Squadron to IAF by HAL by 2030
Thus by 2030, IAF will have added 13 new Squadrons but will also have retired the six Bison Squadrons and thus left with just 46 Squadrons. These will be just bare enough to take on both China and Pakistan simultaneously on two fronts. To an untrained Western eye this may look as bewildering variety of Russian, French, British, indigenous and even american (yes the engines in Tejas) but to IAF these have become a highly integrated fighting force without problems.
However by having just 46 fighter Squadrons, IAF can still not go into a relaxing mode. We need at least 54 squadrons to be able to take the battle into the heartland of at least one of the adversaries, while defending the airspace on all five fronts. By 2035 IAF must be provided with these 54 Squadrons and planning must proceed accordingly. We also need to take the battle simultaneously into the Chinese heartland. It is also pertinent to mention here that the actual decisive battles against Chinese will not be fought in the Himalayas but on the fifth front, that is the Choke points of the Indian Ocean Region. For this we must have 63 Fighter Squadrons in IAF colours.
By 2035, our Jaguars and the Mig 29s that is 10 Squadrons too will be retiring. Therefore upto 2035, MoD must ensure the following for the IAF :
• Delivery of 6x Tejas Mk3 Squadrons with indigenous engines by private firms.
• Delivery of 5x AMCA Squadrons by HAL
• Place orders for 2x SU57 MKI squadrons on Russia now, for delivery by 2026
• Make in India 5x SU 57 MKI Squadrons by 2035
• Plan first flight of the prototype of the 6th generation Heavy Combat Aircraft for eventual replacement of SU30 MKI from 2040 onwards
• Get the 7th generation LCA on the drawing boards to start replacing the Tejas MK1 from 2045 onwards
By 2040 even the Mirage 2000 will finally retire along with the first batch of the SU30 MKIs. Though by then IAF will have around 12x SU57 MKIs and our own HCA should start entering the IAF service. Also there will be around 12x AMCA Squadron supplemented with 4x Rafael Squadrons. Thus IAF will have the requisite 63 to 65 fighter Squadrons.
We certainly do not require any American fighters anytime but we can always approach them to supply us with another 25 x C17 Transporters from their own reserves. Because to cover all the five fronts, it is these transporters that will switch troops and logistics from one front to the other as required. In addition the USA can supply us with additional Chinooks to ensure that we have a total of 3x Squadrons. The rotatory Wing fleet of IAF will need around 45 Squadrons of all types …. Light RECCE, Medium Support, Heavy Support and Medium Combat helicopters.
In addition to the 3x Squadrons of C17, the IAF needs around 6x Squadrons of a 50 ton aircraft, 9x Squadrons of a 20 tonner and 12x Squadrons of a 12 tonner and 6x Squadrons of a 3 tonner. We need to go in for an indigenous design for the 20 ton transport aircraft. For the 12 ton variety the already selected C295 is the best bet as A Make in India project. For the light variety, the Saras 2 is the best candidate.
For the 50 ton, we should select either the Russian IL78 MD 90 or a French aircraft and start Make in India production. This aircraft, apart as transporters, can then also be used for our much needed 36 x AWACS and sane number of Refuellers. IAF will also require 36x AWES aircrafts as force multipliers by 2045.
It is time that Sweden should be clearly told to go to hell with their Grippen drama. Those who supply Pakistan with AWACs or such other weapons need not trade with us in weapons at least. They will not be entertained. This warning should be made applicable to the others too.
There is also a need to announce to many doubting Thomases, that the Indian made SU30 MKI is a superb fighter capable of performing from all kinds of terrain including high altitude. It is just that for variety of reasons we have not been exposing its full potential and full capabilities into the public domain. It this aircraft when armed with 2x NG BRAHMOS of 800 km range that will stop the Chinese in their sea lanes of South of China Sea itself. PLAN will not dare to venture out into the Indian Ocean or for that matter even PLA will keep off from Dokalam or Galwan.