Indian Air Force Chief R.K.S. Bhadauriaon Tuesday said the current situation along the eastern Ladakh border with China was at an “uneasy no war no peace status”, even months after Indian and Chinese military locked horns in a deadly clash at the Galwan Valley. However, he assured the armed forces were prepared for any eventuality.
Addressing a webinar jointly organised by Centre for Air Power Studies and Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers, Bhadauria said, “Our defence forces are prepared for any eventuality. The IAF has responded with resolve to counter any misadventure. Air power will be a crucial enabler in our victory in any future conflict. It is, therefore, imperative that IAF obtains and maintains technological edge over our adversaries.”
He added that the recent induction of Rafale fighter jets along with C-17 transport aircraft, Chinook heavy lift helicopters, Apache attack helicopters and other aircraft fleets, has provided IAF with “substantial tactical and strategic capability enhancement.”
The Air Chief Marshal's comments assume significance as the Indian Army has deployed tanks, artillery and heavy weaponry with additional ammunition, fuel and other essential winter supplies to get ready for a long haul in Ladakh to counter any adventurism by the Chinese military.
IAF—the world's fourth largest air force—too, has deployed all its key assets, including newly inducted Rafale fighter jets, Apache and Chinook helicopters, along with frontline Sukhoi, MiG 29, Mirage, and Jaguar fleet on the Ladakh sector.
The air force has intensified its combat air patrol after Indian Army's Operation Snow Leopard on August 29, when it occupied strategic heights in the southern and northern bank of Pangong Tso.
Speaking about the air force's strength, the IAF chief said, "In all, we are looking at 450 new aircrafts, including helicopters over the next two decades. Not to count around 300 aircraft upgrades that will take place in this period." Meanwhile, five French-made multi-role Rafale fighter jets were inducted into the IAF on September 10 and three more are expected to join the airforce's Ambala-based Golden Arrow squadron by the end of next month. Delivery of all 36 Rafale jets with India's specific enhancements are scheduled to be completed by end of 2021.
At the same time, the Indian Air Force is struggling with its depleting combat strength, which is down to 31 squadrons against the sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons.