Highlighting the need to focus on developing indigenous weapon platforms with a technological edge, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria said, the 36 Rafale aircraft was not the entire solution for application of force by the IAF. Speaking at a seminar on 28th February in New Delhi on the occasion of the first anniversary of Balakot airstrikes, he said, “Indian Air Force would be very happy if, in the next air skirmish, the weapons and missiles used by the force were indigenously built. The Indian Air Force has made its stand clear that the indigenous industry needed to deliver weapon platforms across the spectrum and that would be a major game-changer.”
The focus of the seminar was on employability of the airpower in situations that necessitate exertion of national will against an adversary, in a no war no peace scenario.
At the seminar, the Air Force Chief stressing the need to develop indigenous weapons said, “In air power scenarios, it’s important to have suitable weaponry and technological edge. We’ve got this edge through Rafale acquisition, however, we can’t just depend on it to sort out the entire air force requirements. It is also important that the capability of Rafales is complimented with similar capabilities on our other platforms and we have taken actions towards that.”
“We need to be able to use the indigenously developed Astra missiles across the fleets of SU-30, LC and MiG-29. That’s when it is the real power of parity and better performance of airpower,” he added.
Lauding the political will of the government, the Air Chief Marshal said the use of airpower in a sub-conventional scenario was considered to be taboo in the past and the Balakot strike was a huge shift. “The use of airpower till then was taboo, in a sub-conventional scenario, therefore, having chosen the target to decide to use the airpower was a major paradigm shift and the success rate of the mission achieved was proven. The message was delivered and de-escalation was achieved,” he added.
Bhadauria described the Pakistani response after 30 hours, as an effort to satisfy its domestic audience. It was fundamentally tailored to de-escalate and no targets were achieved as they were hurried to disengage. Appreciating the coordination among various organisations in carrying out the successful airstrikes, he said, there was a calibrated effort to ensure that there were no civilian casualties.
Addressing the seminar titled ‘Air Power in No War, No Peace Scenario’ organised by the Centre for Air Power Studies the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the surgical strike of 2016 and Balakot airstrikes of 2019 were not just military strikes but a strong message to the adversary that terror infrastructure across the border cannot be used as safe haven to wage a low-cost war against India.
On 26 February 2019, Indian Air Force jets had crossed over to Pakistan and attacked a Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp in Balakot. The strike followed 12 days after the 14 February 2019 terror attack in Pulwama that killed 40 CRPF personnel.
Rajnath Singh described Balakot airstrike as a singular event of military precision and impact that taught the leadership to think strategic rather than tactical. “Our approach to terrorism was and will remain a judicious combination of clinical military action and mature and responsible diplomatic outreach,” he said.
Singh said the security scenario had changed in the last few years and incidents of cross border terrorism are examples of the new warfare that has forced the rewriting of doctrines across borders. “The security scenario has completely changed in the last few years. Kargil and incidents of cross border terrorism are examples of new kind of warfare. Hybrid warfare is the reality of the present day. There is no clear beginning and end in this changing scenario of conflict,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat highlighted the significance of “credible deterrence” in warfare. “If we’ve to be prepared for the tasks assigned to us then it’s important we maintain credible deterrence on land, air and sea at all times. Deterrence comes from keeping all personnel trained and motivated. Credible deterrence comes from the will of the military leadership and intent of political leadership while taking the tough decision. This was amply shown after Kargil, Uri attacks and Pulwama attack,” he said.