Air Force Chief warns shortage of fighter squadrons must be addressed on priority

NEW DELHI: Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, said on Thursday that the shortage of fighter squadrons must be addressed on priority “to retain our combat edge.”

The IAF chief’s statement came when China was bolstering its airbases in Tibet against India and had deployed a large number of fighter jets and advanced drones since May 2020.

The IAF squadron strength has come down to around 31 after it phased out the Srinagar- based Squadron 51 in September , which used to operate MiG-21 Bison fighter jets. This is in contrast to  sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons. The IAF will have around 35-36 squadrons by the middle of the next decade if the procurement plan went as per schedule.

In his address at 19th Subroto Mukerjee Seminar, Air Chief Marshal Chauidhari said that IAF needed to evolve into an aerospace power and, to do so, there was a need to develop the capability to fight and win tomorrows wars.

“Multi-domain operations and hybrid warfare are here to stay and we must therefore, realign and reform to keep pace with technology to remain relevant.  There are certain critical deficiencies like shortage of fighter squadrons and force multipliers which must be addressed on priority to retain our combat edge,” said the Air Chief Marshal.

In past there have been reports of aggressive patrolling by Chinese drones near LAC in the north-east and Chinese jets in the Ladakh sector. This had forced the Indian Air Force to scramble its jets.

The IAF chief said that India’s neighbourhood continued to remain volatile and uncertain. “Amidst this volatility, we must enhance our collective strength by partnering with nations which share common beliefs and values,” he said.

Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said that India must use its image as a stable country with considerable economic heft to forge mutually beneficial relationships and strategic partnerships. “It is essential that we retain our strategic autonomy and to do that, in my opinion, a strategy of balancing, as espoused by John Mearsheimer would be the way forward,” he said.

The IAF chief said that Indo-Pacific region, was seeing great power politics in play where an established super power (USA) is increasingly being challenged by an established regional power (China) with global ambitions. “The outcome of this great power competition will have repercussions for all major players in the region,” he added.

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