was then losing up to two squadrons every year,
as most of its aircraft were old, difficult to
service due to shortage of spares, and in any
case of outdated Soviet vintage technologies.
It is IAFs 80th Anniversary now, and looks
like there have been Birthday Gifts one after
Much has happened since 2005. IAF is in final
negotiations with the French Dassault for acquiring
126 (and possibly 63 more) Medium Multi Role Combat
Aircraft, 22 Boeing Apache AH-64D helicopters
with Longbow radars and Stinger air-to-air Hellfire
air-to-ground missiles, 10 Boeing C 17 Globemaster
III strategic airlifters (possibly six more),
more SU 30 MKIs air dominance fighters (272 ordered
so far), and a host of other systems including
six mid-air refuelers and three (plus two) Israeli
Phalcon AWACS mounted on IL 76 platforms.
Tenders for Heavy Lift helicopters and more
midair refuelers have also been opened. The proposal
for the acquisition of Light Utility Helicopters,
in which the Army is the lead buyer, is in final
stage of consideration with the Ministry of Defence.
The current inventory of aircraft has also been
modernised with upgraded systems, including the
Mig 21 while an order to re-engine the Jaguar
with a more powerful Honeywell power plant, and
then to upgrade it with new weapons, in on the
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne
told India Strategic in an interview
that IAFs transformation plan aims
at acquiring multi-spectrum strategic capabilities
operate effectively and decisively.
Speed, Reach, and Precision are the keywords
for IAF's Transformation.
42 Squadrons by 2027
The Air Chief confirmed that the Government
had finally approved 42 combat squadrons for the
IAF, and that by 2020 and beyond, we are
confident that our operational capabilities will
provide us response options to handle any contingencies.
In about 10 years, 75 per cent of IAFs
modernisation will be complete.
The acquisition of Su-30 MKI, AWACS, Mid-air
refuellars, Special Ops capable C-130J, New Generation
Precision Guided Munitions, Sensor Fused Weapons,
Harpoon Anti Ship missiles have greatly enhanced
our all weather precision strike capability as
well as enhanced our strategic reach. The future
inductions viz., MMRCA, LCA, FGFA and C-17 aircraft
will further enhance our capability response options.
At present, IAF has 34 Squadrons, thanks to
the increasing deployment of SU 30 MKIs, which
are being built in India from raw material
stage. There are 10 squadrons of this formidable
aircraft, steadily replacing the phased out machines,
and six more will be added in the coming years.
An IAF squadron generally has 18 aircraft, with
two of them for training. An SU 30 MKI can comfortably
fly for 10 hours. In fact, the Indian configuration
has been adopted recently by the Russian Air Force
also for its future requirements.
|Air Chief Marshal
NAK Browne’s Message to The IAF Family
The Indian Air Force today is in
the midst of transforming into a potent
multi-spectrum strategic force in
keeping with India’s national aspirations.
In consonance with our Vision of
‘People First Mission Always’, I urge
all the Air Warriors to seize the
moment and embrace all the transformational
challenges as unique opportunities
for growth of the Service. While successful
mission accomplishment is a forgone
conclusion, we are mindful of the
fact that the air warriors - who are
our real force multipliers - need
to be the centre of our focus. IAF
is fully committed to ensure that
the important human dimension of our
transformation gets the top priority
in all our actions.
I believe that the mission for the
IAF is to become a modern and professional
Air Force with multi-spectrum capabilities
to safeguard our National interests
and Objectives. I can assure our countrymen
that the Indian Air Force will always
remain ready to deliver with speed,
precision, honour and pride in our
At present the IAF has 34 fighter squadrons
against the sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons.
The number of fighter squadrons is likely to remain
at 34 squadrons during the 12th Plan period. The
phasing out of certain legacy aircraft in beginning
of 13th Plan period would be offset by raising
of the new Su-30 Squadrons, therefore, the overall
combat potential will continue to remain high.
Fifth Generation Fighter
The Air Chief disclosed that IAF had opted to
acquire 144 PMF (Perspective Multirole Fighters)
also known as the Fifth Generation Fighter
Aircraft from Russia, but most of these
will be Made in India. All these will be single
seaters, with the same configuration that the
Russian Air Force will have but some onboard systems
will be Indian, as is the case with the SU 30
Earlier, a figure of 200-plus of two-seater
version for India was looked at. But to cut down
on the development costs and time frame, IAF plans
to begin their induction from 2020 onwards.
Discussions with Russia are on to sign the first
R&D phase, and the first prototype is likely
to be delivered to India in 2014 followed by two
more in 2017 and 2019. The series production then
will only be ordered based on the final
configuration and performance of the third ptorotype.
IAF needs to spend more of its budget on acquisitions,
thanks to the continuous requirement of technologically
sophisticated aircraft and systems. In fact, both
the Indian Navy and IAF have been on a rather
fast track, and there has been sufficient financial
support from the Government.
As for the IAF, Air Chief Marshal Brown observed
that IAF had already spent around Rs 150,000 crores
(approx. US$ 30 billion) in the last five years
on replacing the outdated systems. This expenditure
has been across the board, including in modernising
the ground infrastructure.
He also said that there were periodic assessments
of the security and strategic environment, and
if required, IAF could always approach the Government
based on the prevalent situation at any
Upgrades are important
Every air force in the world has a teeth to
tail ratio of modern and legacy aircraft. For
the IAF, the exercise has been tough as all modernisation
programmes for the armed forces and the intelligence
agencies were stopped by the political leadership
in 1989 over the Bofors controversy.
As exemplified by Pakistans misadventure
over Kargil in 1999, this decision proved expensive
although the deployment of Bofors guns and IAFs
aircraft decimated the nearly 200 positions Pakistani
soldiers had occupied on the Indian side of Himalayan
IAF is giving due attention to the modernisation
of its existing inventory.
The drawdown in the number of Combat Squadrons
is being addressed through upgradation of some
of the existing aircraft like the Mirage-2000,
Jaguar and MiG-29 and new acquisitions like additional
Su-30 MKI, MMRCA, LCA (Light Combat Aircraft)
and FGFA in the 12th (2012-2017) and 13th (2017-2022)
Plan periods. We have embarked on a long term
plan to enhance our operational capabilities,
both qualitatively and quantitatively. Eventually
we are seeking to build up our squadron strength
to 42 by the 14th Plan period, Air Chief
Marshal Browne said.
The Air Chief described the acquisition of 10
C 17 Globemaster III aircraft as important, pointing
out that IAF had the sanction for six more of
these strategic airlifters. But an order would
be placed once the first few aircraft are received
and their performance assessed.
Meanwhile, the existing fleet of Il 76 aircraft
and AN 32 aircraft was being modernised for a
life of another 10 to 15 years. These aircraft
are undergoing comprehensive upgrades.
A contract with Russia for the Medium Transport
Aircraft (MTA) of 15 to 20 ton capacity was signed
in May 2012, and the Design Phase Contract is
being finalised now.
IAF will induct 45 MTA from 2018 onwards.
VIP Aircraft and Helicopters
Air Chief Marshal Browne said that IAF expected
the delivery of 12 VIP helicopters from Agusta
Westland to commence from January 2013, and to
be completed by 2015. The first helicopter should
be in India in February.
Eight of these will be in VVIP configuration
and the remaining four in standard.
He also disclosed that IAF is also processing
a case for four more Embraers for VIP role in
addition to the six already with its Communication
The Squadron also has four Boeing 737 aircraft
and Mi 8 helicopters.
Training of Pilots
The Air Chief said that pilots for the VIP helicopters
as well as for C 17s were under training.
There were nearly 100 technicians for training
also in the US for C 17s. That is a big programme,
he observed, pointing out that simulators and
in-country training is given due emphasis.
IAF carries out training of all its pilots
within our country. Short visits to training academies
of other air forces by our trainees are undertaken
as part of the exchange programmes. All the modern
generation aircraft have complex systems on board
which require extensive training on such systems.
Simulators go a long way in ensuring that
a pilot learns about these systems under simulation
before he actually uses these systems onboard
an aircraft thus saving precious training hours.
Apart from the simulators being inducted with
all the new aircraft which are being contracted
for, the IAF has taken a conscious decision to
include simulator training as part of the planned
training curriculum from the time the pilots join
as ab-initio trainees.