Air Chief Marshall VR Chaudhari on Saturday announced the government’s approval for creation of a weapon system branch for Indian Air Force officers to man four specialised streams — surface to surface missiles, surface to air missiles, remotely piloted aircraft and weapon system operators in twin and multi-crew aircraft.
Speaking at the 90th anniversary function of the IAF, Chaudhari stated that “this is the first time since independence that a new operational branch is being created”. “It would result in savings of over ₹3400 crores due to reduced expenditure on flying training,” he said.
At a time when the IAF squadron strength has come down to 30 from sanctioned 42, required owing to twin threats from China and Pakistan, Chaudhari talked about replacing conventional systems and weapons with modern, flexible and adaptive technology to overcome demands of changing warfare “Our fighting potential has to be sustained over the years through the induction of 4.5 Gen fighters, AWACS, AEW&C and flight refuelling aircraft. We have initiated necessary steps to ensure our fighter squadron strength remains at the desired level,” he told the gathering at Chandigarh where the Air Force day celebrations have shifted for the first time from Delhi.
Chaudhary spoke of increasing the inventory strength by stating that the “indigenous development of six AEW&C Mk-II has been sanctioned and we are actively pursuing the acquisition of ISTAR, UAVs, Counter UAS technology and strengthening our networks”. The IAF is awaiting government nod for buying 4.5 generation 114 fighter jets over a period of time.
Chaudhary was insistent in his speech that “tomorrow’s conflicts cannot be fought with yesterday’s mindset”. He stated that to be able to execute all missions in an environment of denial will increasingly be the basis of our training in the Air Force.
In the span of a week, the Chief of Air Staff twice made it clear that the IAF is not reluctant for theaterisation. “..There is a need to plan for integrated and joint application of combat power. The key to success in multi-domain operations is to have flexible, robust and redundant command and control structures which will allow a joint force to dominate across domains. No single service can win a war on its own”.
He said that work is in progress to enhance jointness among the three services. The traditional domains of land, sea and air have expanded to include space and cyber, as per the Air Chief Marshal. “We are increasingly seeing the convergence of all these domains into one continuum in the form of hybrid warfare, ” Chaudhari said. The use of non-kinetic and non-lethal warfare to supplement kinetic means has changed the way wars will be prosecuted,” he pointed out.
Upholding “atmanirbharta” and Make in India steps, he stressed that India has signed a contract for 83 LCA Mk 1A and are fully committed to the development of LCA Mk-II and the AMCA. But, he drew the attention on the advent of drones, swarm drones, hypersonic weapons and space-based ISR systems which have added a new dimension to war fighting. “I am happy to report that several projects are well underway to utilise the potential of automation, data analytics and artificial intelligence to transform our operational philosophy,” he insisted.