For Defence of India , the IAF needs to not only control the skies over the Indian Land mass but also the skies over its territorial waters and the EEZ. IAF must also have the ability to penetrate and dominate the skies over the Sub Continent stretching from Afghanistan to Burma in the West…..East direction and from Tibet and parts of China to Maldives, in North….South direction. In fact in the North the effective domination line should be line connecting KASHGAR…AKSHU…YUSHU…SICHUAN…GUIZHOU and in the South it should be line connecting
HITHADO….GAN…..HULHEEMEEDHOO islands of Maldives. This capability must be achieved in the foreseeable future itself and will automatically give the IAF the capability to fight a two front war. For this India needs a minimum of 63 Combat Squadrons, the sanctioned 45 will simply render the task an impossible one. With 45 squadrons IAF will barely be able to just hang on by its teeth in a two front war. To be able to hit back on one of the fronts while holding onto both , the squadron strength must increase to 54. To hold on both the fronts and hit back too, we need minimum 63 squadrons. In contrast to these figures , IAF is staring at a nightmarish figure of 34 Squadron , with a few Experts predicting even hellish lower figures.
Presently as per published reports IAF has already deployed 13 squadrons of Sukhoi 30 MKI numbering around 234 aircrafts .By 2019 we should have all 15 planned Squadrons fully deployed. This is a very potent force and under our highly capable pilots can take on any Air force existing in the world. Next phase modernisation of MkI has already started .
What we need is to add three more squadrons and have 18 of these. Some say additional 40 MKIs capable of carrying BRAHMOS missiles are already in the pipeline .In case this is true, then only one more additional Squadron is required to be sanctioned with of course at least 6 additional aircrafts for the TACD . So by 2021 we should have 18 Squadrons MKIs fully deployed and real deadly armed with next generation of lighter BRAHMOS missiles.
With the Sukhois taking care of 18 out of 63 squadrons , IAF has to scout around for 45 more squadrons. The three upgraded MIG 29 squadrons , two upgraded MIRAGE 2000 squadrons , six upgraded Jaguar squadrons, two upgraded MIG 27 squadrons and two brand new Rafael squadrons will be there in 2022 to give a total of 33 squadrons , with a void of 30 more . Now from where do we get these combat aircrafts ? Without doubt from MAKE IN INDIA and MADE IN INDIA . Looking up to 2030 time frame , with a bit of futuristic planning , India can without much problem have 8 squadrons of FGFA ( with 2 or 3 built in Russia and rest in India ) and two squadrons of our own AMCA. However by this time the two MIG 27 squadrons would be phased out and thus net increase would be of 8 squadrons only , still leaving a void of 22 squadrons.
It has been reliably learnt that as part of Rafael Offset deal , Safran a French company has agreed to help our GTRE….Gas Turbine Research Establishment to master one of the most complex technologies , that is the development of FLIGHT ENVELOPE of our own KAVERI JET ENGINE. Project Kaveri was sanctioned in 1989 and nearly given up in 2014 . Presently we have come up to k 8 prototype , which needs to be uprated and upgraded to K9 standards for safe use in a Single Engine Combat Jet Fighter. In case this comes through , India should straight way place an order for another 4 Squadrons of Rafael Jets without a second thought ( though Jetli ji may have to give a lot more thoughts) , with of course MAKE IN INDIA clause.
However , finally ACM Dhanoa as on today , will still be staring at a figure of 18 squadrons which must come up by 2030. These have to be single engine light combat aircrafts. Presently both the Americans and the Swedes are trying their level best to pile on their Vintage wares on us. We should keep talking to them and get the best bargain in engine technologies and few other avionics to manufacture our own TEJAS MK1 , MK1A and MK2 and ultimately TEJAS MK 3 . It has to be TEJAS and only TEJAS all the way for both IAF and for export. In spite of Doomsday Predictors , Naysayers , so called experts , financial hurdles , technological hurdles ,political interference , bureaucratic apathy and international sanctions , we are on the verge of THE BREAKTHROUGH and we Indians have to achieve it .
The first TEJAS Mk 1 squadron has been raised , albeit with just 2 aircrafts and raising should be completed by 2018 . IAF will go ahead and with pilot training , developing maintenance procedures , combat tactics and drills along with employment and deployment strategies . As per existing plan and schedule by 2020 , even the second squadron of Mk 1 should be fully raised. Therefore without delay, roping in the private sector , as on now , HAL has to ensure two new production Lines for Mk 1 A so that by 2023 they are able to churn out three MK 1 A squadrons for IAF and two each for Vietnam and Philippines . By this time frame Mk 2 should have entered production and by 2027 , IAF should have received its four squadrons of TEJAS MK 2 and Vietnam and others getting their orders fulfilled .
Much before 2025 , with help of Safran , GRTE should have handed over the KAVERI for production and HAL would have carried out all the flight tests and finally handed over the first TEJAS Mk 3 powered by Kaveri to the IAF . By 2030 ,this will give IAF 9 squadrons of TEJAS MK 3, 4 squadrons of MK 2 , 3 squadrons of MK 1 A and 2 squadrons of MK 1, bringing the total to 18 squadron of TEJAS . In fact by now IAF would either be planning to upgrade the last five squadrons to MK 3 version or hand them over to some friendly foreign country. By now many countries would be asking India for TEJAS with probably the first made in Vietnam TEJAS already rolling out.
The above is highly achievable with full backing of our PM Modi and our RM Parrikar to ACM Dhanoa and down the line to HAL .This is how “My dream Air force 2030 “ will be achieved .
Colonel Awadhesh Kumar, Special Forces Veteran