Home Contact Us  
   

Air Force - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#5017, 11 April 2016
 
India's Air Power Crisis
Abhijit Iyer-Mitra
Independent defence consultant, New Delhi
 

Troubles, They come in Battalions is the latest report by the Carnegie Endowment for Peace on the Indian Air Force (IAF). The substance of the report is divided into five sections, dealing with the supposedly aggravating threat environment, a worsening internal situation of the air force with falling numbers, and finally looks at the three categories of fighters the IAF wants to induct – heavy, medium and light.

Assessing the threat environment Dr Tellis points out that the Indian Air Force has traditionally always had an edge over the Peoples Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) in the high-end spectrum. This however is changing with the PLAAF’s high-end component alone, set to exceed the total strength of the IAF. This imbalance is exacerbated by the presence of a large fleet of UAVs for persistent surveillance and cruise missiles for saturation attacks on Indian targets capable of overwhelming Indian air defences. He also points to the strength of China’s aircraft design and production and the Indian leaderships lack of attention to air warfare. He does however point out some weaknesses in PLAAF infrastructure as well as the need to keep large reserve forces given the several adversaries China faces across its periphery – meaning the full force of the PLAAF probably cannot be brought to bear against one adversary. He then goes on to survey the Pakistan air force and assess what India will be up against in a 1.5 and 2-front war, settling on a 60-squadron air force to comprehensively combat both adversaries or a 42-45 squadron air force in an environment with more limited aims.

The second part of the report goes into the usual rants about the acute numbers shortage the Air Force is facing, putting this down rather crudely to the mismatch of defence needs and the defence budget. The usual arguments are regurgitated - how current force numbers are much lower than it appears on paper, money is not being sanctioned for new projects and how unforeseen expenditures like One Rank, One Pension (OROP) have taken a further toll. It does however acknowledge how much of the problems stems from India’s own internal problems and the inability of the higher defence management system to plan systematically into the future. This leads into the IAF’s own logistic problems of an excessively diversified Air Force of far too many fighter and support aircraft varieties.

The author then in tabular form analyses the current light, medium and heavy fighters serving with or under active consideration by the IAF, looking at empty weight and maximum take-off weight (MTOW). He analyses the current light aircraft scenario, pointing out accurately that the expensive upgrades to the Mirage 2000 and MiG-29 could have been avoided if the IAF had committed to immediate retirement of the MiG-21 fleet. The monies saved he opines could have then been diverted to the procurement of a brand new 4.5 generation aircraft in the light end of the spectrum, which was scuttled by domestic opposition in favour of the HAL Tejas. Savaging the Tejas – he points out accurately the notion of cost savings the Tejas brings is illusory and how competing aircraft on the market bring much more to the table at comparable prices.

The analysis of the medium weight category starts with some considerable incredulity (not misplaced) on the authors part, pouring scorn on the choice of the Rafale and the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft  (MMRCA) process. Sadly this comes across as a case of sour grapes - given that his previous report Dogfight basically said the MMRCA process was well thought out – a report that the Air Force used to validate the process politically in India. Irrespective, he then engages in some highly suspect financial comparisons to the costs of US aircraft that cannot be supported by facts – at least with regards to foreign purchases. He goes on to analyse various medium fighters on their capabilities (though less intensively than the light category). His analysis of the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) rests on much more solid ground, pointing out some critical flaws in the thinking behind the programme.

Finally, the author analyses the heavy segment. He cogently analyses problems with the Sukhoi fleet in terms of costs (both procurement and maintenance and in terms of their operational effectiveness given that China operates the same type, albeit inferior version, with Russia willing to transfer increasingly more sophisticated technology to China). This dovetails neatly into his accurate and balanced criticism of the Indo-Russian PAK-FA programme as well as some analysis of the electronic support fleet – specifically the Airborne Warning And Control System (AWACS) aircraft.

On balance the reports several strengths are overshadowed by its weaknesses. For starters', the author falls into the IAF trap of numerical comparisons shorn of intended effects, failing to account for the fact that Western quality with its attendant costs was meant to overcome eastern quantity.   In effect he makes the very worst case – of “great quality in great quantity.” Essentially he scores an own goal – because he cannot demonstrate how Western quality will allow a reduction in total numbers procured. He fails to reconcile his numerical recommendations with the fiscal reality of what India is willing to spend on defence and tellingly avoids a ball park figure on what his recommendations will cost. Perhaps the greatest flaw of the report is that he tends to place far to much blame of the DRDO, the government, and the “higher defence management” while absolving the IAF of grave culpability in its own travails. While his recommendations at the beginning of the report are exceptionally far-sighted, the substance of the report does not do full justice to the last and most salient of his recommendations – that of internal reform and focussing on the secondary aspects of the fleet such as training and infrastructure – instead of mere procurement.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
 
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Indo-Pacific
Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Indus-tan
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within


OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


 

Browse by Publications

Commentaries 
Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 
China 
Myanmar 
Afghanistan 
Iran 
Pakistan 
India 
J&K  

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Indo-Pak 
Military 
Terrorism 
Naxalite Violence 
Nuclear 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
India's Nuclear Doctrine and Strategy

Obama-II and the Asia Pacific: Macro Strategic Trends in Rebalancing

Indian Nuclear Thought: Doctrinal Confusion

India-Australia Relations: Julia's Nuclear Tango

Iran: Escalation Guaranteed

Joining the US against China?: The Secret Chapter in Australiaís Defence White Paper

Shangri La Dialogue: Indian Perspectives

Seoul Nuclear Security Summit 2012: An Analysis of Indiaís Position

The Afghan Debate: Is India Both the Problem and the Solution?

Iranís Climb-down: The Quixotic Backdrop

Ten Years After: 9/11 and the Collapse of Western Realpolitik

Debate: Is a Nuclear Iran good for India?

PNS Mehran and the Military Consequences for India

Emulate Operation Abbottabad?: No India Canít

ADD TO:
Blink
Del.icio.us
Digg
Furl
Google
Simpy
Spurl
Y! MyWeb
Facebook
 
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 January  February
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997
 
 

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

 
Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.