SOURCE: NARAYAN APTE/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
It Amazes me that the top brass of the Indian Air Force confirm to the national media that even 13 years in the future, IAF will be no way near its sanctioned 42 squadron strength. With the current pace of induction and retirements, the Indian Air Force can only get a maximum of 35 squadrons in the next 10 years, up from the current 31-32. IAF as per its assessment had called the need for having 42 squadrons to protect the western and northern borders with Pakistan and China.
Even to achieve 35 Squadrons by 2035, IAF will need to induct 83 Light Combat aircraft MK1A, 114 MRFA, 106 Tejas Mk2, and at least 40 Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft. Any deviation from these plans means IAF will be short by another 4-5 Squadrons which will mean 200 combat jets less in inventory and what’s scarier is that IAF Top brass doesn’t seem to mind having such levels of squadrons to face possible two-front war scenario.
Chinese PLAAF has been inducting nearly 90 4.5 and 5th gen fighter jets annually and has been replacing its older F-7, and F-8 based on 60 techs much faster than what IAF has been able to manage. China already has two 5th gen programs and 3rd is for future aircraft carriers in development with rumors also of a STOVL variant in pipelines. By 2035, PLAAF will have at least 90% of the jets that are from 4.5Gen and 5gen based and most likely all newly built ones and might see 6th gen fighter jets also.
PAF on the other side has been steadying inducting 4.5 gen JF-17 fighter jets even though they are a lot of questions regarding its build quality and operational capabilities but a steady intake of 20+ jets each year has come as a sigh of relief to the older Mirage-III jets that strangely PAF prefers for ground strikes more then JF-17s. But recent quick induction of J-10CE also shows that China can beef up PAF in a much shorter time with supplies even in case of one front war with India, a luxury that IAF won’t have.
India’s national security lies in how fast it can procure 114 jets from abroad since this is what IAF wants and this is the only way IAF thinks it can address the elephant in the room that is the lack of fighter jets. For years now IAF has overlooked the LCA-Tejas program only to wake up in 2021 to give it further orders, it ignored the Mk2 program for a while until it was forced to commit orders for its, AMCA is still a long way to go and anything can happen that can derail or delay the program that needs to be watched out for but roadmap that IAF has prepared till 2040 and beyond is nothing impressive to show growing regional power of the country that wants to be top 3 economic in this period.