The Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari emphasised the importance of proactive anticipation rather than reactive responses to changing aspects of warfare. Speaking at the India Defence Conclave 2023 hosted by Bharat Shakti on 10th October in the capital, he outlined the Indian Air Force’s vision for its upcoming centenary decade, highlighting the commitment to keeping up with technological advancements and enhancing operational capabilities. He noted that, as they enter their centenary decade, the IAF’s vision is to become a nimble and versatile air force that delivers decisive aerospace power to advance national interests, as defined in their new doctrine.
“As we march into our centenary decade, I think it is apt for me to put forth what is the vision for the Indian Air Force in the next ten years or so,” the IAF Chief said.
“Very clearly, our new doctrine has articulated the vision of the Air Force to be an agile and adaptable air force that provides decisive aerospace power in furtherance of our national interests,” he said.
For this, we need to understand, assimilate and absorb the newest technology available to us. He said that our doctrine has also clearly spelt out that “we are shifting from being merely a threat-based and demanded force to a capability-demanded force”.
Technology High on Air Force Agenda
During his address at the event attended by over 60 foreign defence attaches and leaders of foreign and domestic defence industries, the IAF Chief stressed the importance of integrating disruptive technologies into their arsenal, recognising their pivotal role in future conflicts. He highlighted the need to swiftly assess how these specialised technologies can be effectively incorporated into military applications and bolster operational capabilities. Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari underscored the significance of keeping pace with technological advancements, ensuring that the Indian Air Force comprehends and leverages these technologies to optimise operational efficiency as part of their vision for the next decade.
The IAF chief underlined that “we need to incorporate disruptive technologies in our induction; it will play a critical role in future conflicts as we have to now seriously look at how some of these niche technologies can quickly be assimilated and put into military use, and how will they enhance our operational capabilities,” and added, “we also need to equally match up as to how best it can enhance our operational capabilities”.
“The IAF’s vision for the next 10-odd years will be to keep pace with technology development, to understand and educate ourselves as to how best these technologies can be adopted to enhance our operational efficiencies,” he added.
IAF’s Vision for the Centenary Decade: PowerPoint Presentation
In a PowerPoint presentation titled ‘IAF’s Vision for the Centenary Decade,’ Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari outlined the Indian Air Force’s vision for modernisation. He emphasised the critical importance of capability development, especially in light of the constantly changing global and geopolitical landscape. This vision is based on four pillars: capability development, technology assimilation, human resource management and training, and the promotion of jointness and integration.
The dynamic shifts occurring worldwide require a continuous reassessment of their capabilities, whether for swift, short-term conflicts or prolonged engagements. The IAF Chief stressed the need to adapt their equipment and training to address evolving threats nationally and internationally through constant analysis and vigilance.
The kind of upheavals being seen across the globe have given rise to “continuously reassess our capabilities, whether we need to be equip and train for a short and swift war or we need to equip and train for a protracted conflict. Which part of the country or the globe is going to be affected next is something that we need to keep analysing all the time,” the IAF Chief said.
“The existing structure and resources need to be constantly restructured, keeping in mind the changing character of warfare,” he said.
“And, it is for us, the leadership in the armed forces, to understand that we need to always anticipate the change in the character of warfare rather than reacting to it after it happens, and for this, we need to understand, assimilate and absorb the newest technology that is available to us,” he emphasised.
The IAF Chief used the acronym ‘ABCD’ for steps needed for capability development – ‘Acquire’, ‘Boost’, ‘Conserve’ and ‘Develop’. Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said that this means acquiring news platforms, boosting the capability of existing platforms, conserving ageing platforms, and developing and R&D of new platforms and capabilities.
Focus on ‘Make In India, Atmanibharta’
The Air Chief emphasized that the Indian Air Force’s primary focus will continue to centre around initiatives such as “Make in India,” self-reliance (Atmanirbharta), joint ventures, and technology transfers. During his address, he also mentioned the recent inclusion of C-295 aircraft and the IAF’s intentions to acquire an additional batch of 97 Tejas Mark-1A aircraft and upgrade 84 Sukhoi-30MKI jets.
“The C-295 project will involve 125 MSMEs spanning seven states and is expected to generate a little over 40 lakh man-hours of work. And, 96 per cent of these man-hours work will be undertaken in India,” he said.
Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari, the Chief of Air Staff, announced that the enhancement of 84 SU-30MKI aircraft, at a cost of Rs 6,000 crore, will encompass the upgrading of 51 systems, with 78% of the content being indigenous. Among these 51 systems, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will upgrade 30, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will handle 13, and the private sector will upgrade eight systems.
He said the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project has created a national aerospace ecosystem with 140 design agencies and 340 production agencies, generating around 5,000 jobs in the private sector. Once the IAF orders 97 additional LCA-MK1A, this will expand further.