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IAF lines up mega projects to boost combat prowess, constantly monitoring situation along LAC

Indian Air Force fighter planes during the final rehearsal over the upper lake ahead of an air show to commemorate the 91st anniversary of IAF, in Bhopal, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023. A PTI Photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): As the eastern Ladakh border row lingered on, Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari on Tuesday said that the IAF's operational plans are very dynamic and it will deal with challenges along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with better tactics, training and deployment of indigenously-built military hardware like mountain radars, long-range missiles and upgraded combat planes.

The Chief of Air Staff, addressing a press conference ahead of the Air Force Day on October 8, asserted that the IAF will continue to remain deployed till complete disengagement takes place in the remaining contested areas in eastern Ladakh.

Giving details of steps being taken to bolster the Indian Air Force's operational prowess, he listed the proposed procurement of 97 Tejas Mark 1A aircraft for Rs 1.15 lakh crore and upgrading 84 Sukhoi-30MKI jets at a cost of Rs 60,000 crore.

In February 2021, Defence Ministry sealed a Rs 48,000 crore deal with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd to procure 83 such jets.

Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said the IAF is looking at inducting indigenously developed military platforms, equipment and defence hardware worth Rs 2.5 lakh crore to Rs 3 lakh crore in the next seven-eight years.

To a question on China's rapid expansion of military infrastructure and enhancing deployment of air assets along the LAC, he said the IAF is constantly monitoring the situation across the borders.

"We are constantly monitoring the situation across the borders through ISR (Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) and we make note of the build-up of the resources and capabilities across the borders.

"Our operational plans are very dynamic and keep changing based on the situation that we perceive that is developing across any front," he said.

"So in places where we cannot really counter the numbers or the might of the adversary, we will counter it through better tactics and through better training," he said.

The Air Chief Marshal said the IAF does not have a fixed mindset in terms of the deployment of assets in key areas along the LAC.

"Our focus will remain to be dynamic at all times and not to have a fixed mindset in terms of deployment of assets in particular areas.

"But we have very very flexible and dynamic war plans which we keep revising every now and then based on the ISR inputs that we get," he said.

The Chief of Air Staff said the IAF is in the process of deploying mountain radars to improve surveillance along the borders.

He said China has deployed radars all along the northern border and the IAF is aware of the surveillance capability of the adversary.

"Our counter is through our own mountain radar project. Also, we have low-level lightweight radars that we continuously keep deploying and redeploying based on what we see developing across the borders," he said.

"In the long run, we are looking at deploying mountain radars at these strategic locations to be able to see equally deep into the adversary's territory," he said.

He said the IAF is procuring a variety of weapons systems like long-range missiles, radars and other surveillance equipment to bolster its combat capabilities.

"The yearly cash outflow for this year is Rs 41,180 crore," he said.

On the overall situation along the LAC in eastern Ladakh, he said it continues to "remain what it was in the last one year. There have been certain disengagements in certain contested areas. But complete disengagement has not yet taken place."

"We will continue to remain deployed till complete disengagement takes place," he said.

Answering a question, Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said that the IAF received three units of S-400 missile systems from Russia and it is hoping to receive the remaining two by next year.

To a query on a midair crash involving a Sukhoi-30 and a Mirage 2000 in Madhya Pradesh on January 28, Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said human error led to the accident and standard operating procedures were revised.

The Chief of Air Staff also said that the transfer of technology is taking place between China and Pakistan.

On lessons from the Russia-Ukraine conflict, he said there is a need to build full spectrum capability to counter India's adversaries.

He also noted that the IAF will replace all MiG-21 squadrons with the LCA Mark 1A by 2025.

The Chief of Air Staff described the Indo-Pacific region as the "new economic and strategic centre of gravity" of the world that offers both challenges and opportunities.

"The Indian Air Force with its inherent capability to see the farthest, reach the fastest and hit the hardest will be critical in mitigating these challenges and will remain a fulcrum in projecting India's might in the region," he said.

"Owing to the volatile and uncertain geopolitical landscape in our region, the need to have a strong and credible military has become an imperative," he said.

The Chief of Air Staff said modern warfare is constantly undergoing a transformation due to rapid advancements in technology and that his force has embarked on a journey of transformation and is progressing in a planned and systematic manner.

"Our focus is on force multipliers in the form of AI (artificial intelligence)-based decision tools, electronic warfare equipment, robust networks and harnessing space and cyber capabilities.

"While adding newer and more potent equipment, platforms and weapons to our arsenal, we are also committed to Atmanirbhar Bharat and are contributing extensively towards enhancing indigenisation and defence production, fast-paced development and operationalisation of indigenous aerospace projects," he said.

Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said persistent surveillance capability, sharpening of sensor-to-shooter time, long-range precision weapons and development of multi-domain capability are the main focus areas of the IAF.

"We have recently witnessed the induction of the first C-295 aircraft. The project is an important milestone in boosting our defence industry and will contribute immensely," he said.

"As we progress in our centenary decade, you have my assurance that IAF will remain fully committed to the protection of sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country," the Chief of Air Staff said.

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