Centre should further strengthen IAF

Centre should further strengthen IAFCentre should further strengthen IAF
Highlights

Induction of eight Apache attack choppers into the Indian Air Force should bring cheer to the well-wishers of...

Induction of eight Apache attack choppers into the Indian Air Force should bring cheer to the well-wishers of India. Our Air Force has always made us proud with its accuracy and exceptional abilities. But what should worry us is the equipment that the IAF has now and the slow pace of modernisation.

Dirty politics and corruption have rendered us weak on several fronts as far as our Defence is concerned. We may have successfully conducted a raid against terrorist camps in Balakot in February last, but when it comes to a key parameter, the IAF does not compare well with the Pakistani Air Force (PAF).

Thanks to its single-minded anti-India pursuit, Pakistan has kept up building its armed forces impeccably, though they are no match to even our depleted strength on certain counts. Yet, we have to accept certain fundamentals.

The pilot to aircraft ratio, target practice and the strength of our squadron should raise serious concern. We currently have a ratio of 1.5 pilots per aircraft as against 2.5 pilots per aircraft for the PAF. This means that PAF is better equipped to carry out day and night operations in case of a full-scale war. It is all about human endurance.

A pilot can effectively carry out just six sorties a day. Beyond which it is said that error creeps into the judgment. Secondly, our training is mostly based on simulation rather than a more preferred actual practice. Our Western Command which looks after the entire air space with Pakistan and parts of China, cannot boast of a single firing range to drop larger calibre bombs in addition to not having a high-altitude range for bombing practice.

This should be kept in mind while assessing our strengths always. And also, the fact that we share a long border at high altitude with China. Some reports even suggested that the sanctioned strength of IAF that includes fighter pilots has only marginally increased since 1970 when the government gave it a two per cent increase every year.

In addition, we had given this strength when we were flying only the MIGs'. Today we are flying Su30MKI, which is a twin seater. Our squadron strength is 42 but we only have 30 now. When the squadron strength goes up even this pilot to aircraft ratio further drops. When the country conducted Gagan Shakti exercise last year, the ratio went up by 0.5 per cent to 2.

It was so because the IAF enlisted all serving and medically fit officers below the age of 48 for the exercise. It is a matter of worry that the Modi government is not sanctioning permission to the IAF to use high altitude ranges in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh for practice.

A decision on this is pending since 2015. Earlier, Tosa Maidan range in Jammu and Kashmir was being used but the State government had taken it over later. This is criminal negligence and nothing less. Moreover, we should also keep in mind a two-front war situation. There is much more that the government should do to strengthen our forces.

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