Indian Air Force Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa has said that IAF desires to have independence for execution. Dhanoa told Indian Express if restricted to one sector, the potential of this arm of the military will not be optimally exploited. Dhanoa, a fighter pilot who commanded a frontline squadron in the Kargil War, said that with the modern acquisitions, IAF can affect the battles in the two fronts. Asking why the IAF has argued against the proposal for integrated theatre command, Dhanoa has said joint planning and execution have to be done at the national level, not subdivided within theatres. He also said that the creation of a permanent chairman, Chief of Staffs Committee, was an ongoing process and supported by the three services.
Asking why so few women have become fighter pilots after the first batch, he said that three women fighter pilots are at present undergoing stage-III semester-II fighter training on Hawk aircraft at Air Force Station, Kalaikunda. The criteria for selection of women pilots for the fighter stream in IAF are the same as that for male pilots, Dhanoa noted. He said that in June 2016, three women trainees had opted for the fighter stream and they were recommended for the same, having met other laid-down criteria. In the succeeding courses, there have been women opting to be fighter pilots but they have subsequently not met the skill capability and qualification requirements for selection into the fighter stream.
He said IAF’s focus area is to build up to the authorized strength of fighter squadrons at the earliest. He said that timely induction of LRSAM (Long-Range Surface-to-Air Missile) & Close-in Weapon System needed to strengthen of the air defence of the country. IAF is also in the process of acquiring additional combat support platforms like Airborne Warning and Control System and Air-to-Air Refuelling.
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On a question how does the IAF plan to overcome the issue of poor serviceability of Sukhoi, the Air Chief said the situation has improved since 2015. Enhanced serviceability was achieved by ensuring setting up of complete repair facilities at HAL division, overcoming engine reliability problems by design improvement and targeting improvements in high failure rate components to improve their reliability, Dhanoa said. He said that this will be pursued so that even higher serviceability is achieved in the coming years.