Top commanders of the Indian Air Force today reviewed the country’s preparedness to deal with any aerial threat, particularly when China is increasing its air power and Pakistan making efforts to boost its military strength. In her inaugural address at the conference of the commanders, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman asked the IAF to lay the roadmap for absorption as well as production of high-end aviation technology. Officials said Sitharaman complimented the commanders for the success of last month’s ‘Operation Gagan Shakti’ which was one of its biggest combat exercises by the IAF.
The force, during the exercise, checked its operational preparedness to deal with a two-front war. Sources said China’s fast-paced modernisation of its air force and India’s preparedness to deal with any security challenge are being discussed at the two-day conference. They said IAF chief B S Dhanoa briefed the defence minister on the preparedness of the force as well as on ‘Gagan Shakti’.
The IAF said while addressing the commanders, the defence minister lauded the exemplary conduct of the biggest exercise of the force, calling it a “landmark” one for the air warriors. “She complimented all personnel for sustaining round-the-clock operations in the most-professional manner. She said that the focus of the exercise was to draw lessons for evolving the doctrinal loop which is an ongoing process,” the IAF said in a statement. The exercise had taken place between April 8 and 22.
Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa highlighted that the exercise was very fruitful in testing the IAF’s surge operations, logistics supply chain, rapid augmentation of personnel, inter- theatre move of forces, communication network and reliability of equipment and systems. The commanders’ conference was also attended by Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre and Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra.
The statement said the defence minister emphasised that being a tech-intensive service, the air force should pioneer in laying the roadmap for absorption and production of high-end aviation technology products in India and propel the country’s growth in these sectors in the next 15 years It said she also commended the IAF for the key role played by it in nation-building by promoting regional connectivity by rendering support towards the UDAN scheme under which smaller cities are being connected with flight services.
The IAF has opened up several of its airfields for operations by civil aircraft. The defence minister also complemented the force for setting a precedence on several aspects of convergence among the three services as suggested by the prime minister. “She specifically highlighted the efforts of IAF for having issued a path-breaking order empowering the CINCAN (Commander-in-Chief of the Andaman and Nicobar Command) to exercise full control over the IAF officers deputed to work with him,” the statement said.
The Andaman and Nicobar Command is India’s first tri-services command. The commanders are also expected to deliberate on depleting strength of IAF’s fighter squadrons. At present, the air force has 33 fighter squadrons as against the authorised strength of 42 squadrons. The actual strength may be down to 27 squadrons in the next few years as a number squadrons are set to be decommissioned.