Indian Air Force Chief BS Dhanoa has hinted at the increased challenges for India’s security planners after the delivery of first batch of sophisticated anti-missile defence system S-400 by Russia to China early this year. China already had S-300 missile defence system purchased from Russia and acquisition of S-400 will further fortify its air defence that may be a nightmare for India’s defence planners.
In an interview to an Indian news agency, Air Marshal Dhanoa said that India was very much alive of the emerging threats in its neighbourhood and Indo-Pacific region and it is a cause of concern for the country.
He, however, asserted that Indian Air Force was ready to counter these challenges.
Speaking to news agency Press Trust of India, BS Dhanoa Sunday said that the threat to national security emanates from ‘unresolved territorial disputes’ and ‘sponsored and transnational non-state actors’ a reference to simmering border disputes with Pakistan and China and use of terrorists by Pakistan as an instrument of state policy.
India has long running territorial disputes with both its eastern and western neighbours – China and Pakistan – and has fought four wars with them since independence that has affected its developmental efforts.
Indian Air Force is a strategic force in the region but now it faces the rapid development in the capabilities of Chinese Air Force PLAAF that actively supports and cooperates with India’s arch rival Pakistan’s Air Force.
Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa was perhaps concerned over acquisition of sophisticated S-400 Triumf missile system by China as the country has already received the first batch of missiles from Russia this year.
China already had S-300 anti-missile defence system in its inventory and acquisition of S-400 will further boost its air defence capabilities.
Availability of S-300 and S-400 missile systems with China severely impinges upon Indian Air Force’s ability to deliver a retaliatory nuclear strike against China in case of a nuclear exchange between the countries.
Perhaps this was the reason that last week prompted Prime Minister Modi to publicly announce the completion of India’s nuclear triad – ability to launch nukes from air, land and sea as the country’s sole nuclear submarine INS Arihant had come back after completing its first ever deterrence patrol.
Prime Minister Modi has called operationalisation of nuclear triad and the country’s lone strategic nuclear submarine INS Arihant a shield against ‘nuclear blackmail’.
Comparing the development as a Deepawali gift, PM Modi also described operationalisation of INS Arihant as a ‘harbinger of the country’s fearlessness’.
Air Chief BS Dhanoa was more open to talk about use of Indian Air Force against Pakistan based terror camps, a job which is primarily considered to be the responsibility of Indian Army.
BS Dhanoa did not rule out the possibility of use of Indian Air Force against terror camps across the borders as the country faces recurrent raids by Pakistan based terror groups.
“The IAF is well equipped to take on threats which occur from across the border, be it in the realm of sub conventional or other domains,” BS Dhanoa told the news agency.
“The IAF is prepared 24×7 for any threat and is ready for a befitting response to any contingency with all our available assets.”
He also expressed concerns over China’s rapid modernisation of PLAAF and development of military infrastructure in Tibet.
“The IAF is well equipped to take on challenges across the entire range of threats that could emanate across our borders. While there is a cause for concern as regards to the rate of modernisation and induction of new equipment in our neighbourhood, the IAF is nevertheless, moving ahead with appropriate measures to cater to these new developments,” he said in a reference to the government’s decision to finalise purchase agreement for S-400 Triumf system from Russia.
Referring to Indian Air Force’s role as a strategic force in Indo-Pacific region, BS Dhanoa said: “We have the second largest fleet of C-17s in the world.”
Indian Air Force operates a large fleet of heavy lift transport aircraft, mid-air refueling tankers and AWACS aircraft in addition to front line fighter bombers like Sukhoi-30 MKI as a strategic force in the region.
IAF has a fleet of ten C-17 Globemasters used for strategic airlift and transportation of troops and heavy military equipment.
Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa had called the acquisition of Rafale fighter jets from France and S-400 Triumf missile defence system from Russia a ‘game changer’ while defending the Rafale deal in recent past.
Talking about the modernisation plan, he said that augmenting the IAF’s depleting fighter squadron strength was the top most priority for him.
BS Dhanoa said: “The case for 114 fighter aircraft is being processed under the strategic partnership model of DPP and other options are also being explored to build up to authorised strength at the earliest.”
Indian Air Force has 32 fighter jet squadrons against the sanctioned strength of 42 but the acquisition of military hardware in India has historically been mired in politics and inordinate delays while indigenous development also suffers the same fate and cost overruns spanning over decades.