Defence India News

Indian and French Air Force chiefs take to the skies

The unique flight provided the perfect overview of the Exercise to both the Commanders,” the Indian Air Force’s Media and Communications Centre tweeted…reports Asian Lite News

The Chiefs of the Air Staff of the Indian Air Force (IAF), Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, and the French Air and Space Force (FASF), General Stéphane Mille, participated in a combined flight on Tuesday during the ongoing exercise Garuda VII.

The FASF Chief flew in an IAF Su-30MKI fighter, while CAS did a sortie in an IAF Rafale fighter. Both took part in the exercise, which was carried out as a part of a joint training operation that out of Air Force Station Jodhpur in the desert terrains of Rajasthan.

“Leading by example. Chiefs from both the #IAF & @Armee_de_lair took to the skies in one of the multi-aircraft missions flown during #ExerciseGaruda.

The unique flight provided the perfect overview of the Exercise to both the Commanders,” the Indian Air Force’s Media and Communications Centre tweeted.

Later, speaking to the media alongside the FASF Chief, Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari noted that Ex Garuda offers an exceptional chance for both Air Forces to absorb best practises from one another when conducting missions.

He also emphasized the expanding interoperability between the two air forces, which has grown with each revamped version of the bilateral exercise, which has been taking place regularly since 2003.

The LCA Tejas and the freshly inducted LCH Prachand are both participating in Ex Garuda VII for the first time in an international exercise.

In addition to the LCA and LCH, the IAF contingent also includes Mi-17 helicopters, Su-30 MKI, Rafale, and Jaguar fighter aircraft. Combat-enabling assets, including AWACS, AEW&C, AWACS, and Garud Special Forces, are also part of the IAF contingent.

From the French Air Force side, four FASF Rafale fighters and one A-330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft are participating in the exercise, which is scheduled to end on November 12th.

After a two-year hiatus, the exercise will once again boost bilateral ties between the two nations and provide an opportunity for the air forces on both sides to further develop their operational capabilities, interoperability, and best practices sharing. (India News Network)

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Indian Air Force ready to airlift stranded Indians from Ukraine

He also stated that flight options are available through Dubai and Istanbul and that the Indian Embassy continues to be operational in Ukraine…reports Asian Lite News

Indian Air Force is ready to airlift nationals stranded in Ukraine, along with commercial aircraft, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Thursday, adding India is in touch with both Russia and Ukraine as a “stakeholder”.

“Ministry of External Affairs is in touch with the Ministry of Defence. We have told them that we will need provisions for airlift. In that case, the IAF can go along with commercial aircraft… All options are on the table,” said Shringla.

He also said that India’s topmost priority is safety and security of Indian nationals and their evacuation.

The Foreign Secretary stated that External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has spoken to his Polish, Romanian, Hungarian, and Slovakian counterparts for setting up a camp at border areas for evacuation of stranded Indian nationals.

He also stated that flight options are available through Dubai and Istanbul and that the Indian Embassy continues to be operational in Ukraine.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the ongoing crisis in Ukraine with Russian President Vladimir Putin and stated that the differences between Russia and the NATO group can only be resolved through honest and sincere dialogue.

The Russian President briefed Modi about the recent developments regarding Ukraine, while Modi appealed for an immediate cessation of violence, and called for concerted efforts from all sides to return to the path of diplomatic negotiations and dialogue.

The Prime Minister also sensitised the Russian President about India’s concerns regarding the safety of the Indian citizens in Ukraine, especially students, and conveyed that India attaches the highest priority to their safe exit and return to India.

Helplines for students

The government of Andhra Pradesh has opened helplines in Vijayawada and New Delhi for students stranded in Ukraine.

The helplines at Andhra Bhavan in Delhi will help students and individuals stuck in Ukraine due to attack by Russia.

The state government said in view of the worrying developments in Ukraine, it is is taking every measure to ensure help to the stranded Telugu citizens through the Andhra Pradesh Non Resident Telugu Society (APNRTS).

Students, individuals, and their family can approach or connect to the representative at Andhra Pradesh Bhavan, Delhi and Vijayawada.

Delhi: P. Ravi Shanker, OSD: Mob No.9871999055, MVS Rama Rao, Assistant Commissioner: Mob No.9871990081, ASRN Saibabu, Assistant Commissioner, Mob. No.9871999430, Landline: 011-23384016. The email id is

Vijayawada: Andhra Pradesh Non Resident Telugu Society (APNRTS) (An entity of Government of Andhra Pradesh)


24/7 Helpline: 0863-2340678

WhatsApp +91-8500027678

E-mail: and

Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has directed the senior officials to coordinate with the Ministry of External Affairs and provide best possible help to the students and professionals from Andhra Pradesh stranded in Ukraine and facing the ordeals.

The Chief Minister also asked the officials to keep him informed about the situation and progress of helping the stranded students and professionals.

Jagan Mohan Reddy on Wednesday had written to the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar for repatriating Andhra students from crisis-hit Ukraine.

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Air Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari to be next IAF chief

Commissioned into the IAF’s fighter stream on December 29, 1982, he has held various command, staff, and instructional appointments at various levels…reports Asian Lite News.

Air Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari will be the next Indian Air Force chief, the government announced on Tuesday.

“Government has decided to appoint Air Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, PVSM, AVSM, VM, presently Vice Chief of Air Staff, as the next Chief of Air Staff,” a Defence Ministry statement said.

He will succeed Air Chief Marshal R.K.S Bhadauria who retires from service on September 30.

Commissioned into the IAF’s fighter stream on December 29, 1982, he has held various command, staff, and instructional appointments at various levels.

Air Marshal Chaudhari, who took over as the vice chief on July 1, has flying experience of more than 3,800 hrs on a wide variety of fighter and trainer aircraft, including missions flown during Operation Meghdoot and Operation Safed Sagar.

He is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy and Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, he has commanded a frontline fighter squadron and a fighter base.

As an Air Vice Marshal, he has been Deputy Commandant, Air Force Academy, Assistant Chief of Air Staff Operations (Air Defence) and Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Personnel/ Officers). He has also held the coveted appointments of Deputy Chief of the Air Staff at Air HQ, Senior Air Staff Officer at the Eastern Air Command, and the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Western Air Command.

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Aircraft carriers are inalienable from India’s maritime security

As India prepares to secure its maritime interests in a gradually changing global strategic stage, there is an emergence of a complex security scenario in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and beyond, writes Binay Kumar Singh

As India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, Vikrant, begins its sea trials this year, it not only epitomises a significant milestone in the country’s native techno-industrial prowess but also marks the fulfilment of a dream long nurtured by a nation aspiring to revive its maritime tradition and restore to itself the prestige it held among seafaring countries in the past.

Indeed, the impact of seapower in shaping India’s past and the role that it would play in forging her future had been well understood by our national leadership and strategists alike, and soon after independence the Indian Navy (IN) embarked on a cogently articulated plan to strengthen its capabilities. Specifically, within six months of Independence, the Navy drafted a ten-year expansion plan which, inter alia, included two light fleet carriers to be later replaced by four fleet carriers. This focus on carrier borne airpower emerged from the experiences of the Second World War where aircraft carriers indubitably played a central role on both sides. But it wasn’t the Navy alone which sought to bolster its aviation capabilities. The eminent civil servant, historian and strategic thinker, Sardar KM Panikkar presciently noted in his book titled India and the Indian Ocean: An Essay on the Influence of Sea Power on Indian History (1945).

“Equally important, especially for a country like India, with a vast coastline is the development of a naval air arm, as an integral part of the sea forces. The naval air arm has an important part to play in naval warfare, by patrolling the coasts, by keeping the sea clear and affording air cover to the navy.”

Sure enough, the Indian Navy created a Directorate of Naval Aviation in 1948, five years before the first Sea-land aircraft were inducted. However, due to the vicissitudes of limited budget versus enormous demands for public spending from all sectors, the Navy’s requirement of a strong air arm and aircraft carriers was trimmed in 1950 to only a Fleet Requirement Unit (FRU) with 12 aircraft. Notwithstanding the vagaries of defence budget, Indian naval aviation followed a sure-footed trajectory of growth – from Sea-land aircraft to Firefly, Vampire, Alize, Sea Harrier and Mig 29K; from Super Constellation to IL 38, Tu 142, Dornier and P 8I; a variety of helicopters and augmentation of infrastructure, technological base and quality manpower.

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Carrier aviation is ostensibly the bellwether of a navy’s aviation prowess. That is perhaps the reason why those who possess it desire to preserve it and those who do not, aspire for it. The operational history of the IN’s carriers is illustrative of the capabilities of carriers. Late Vice Admiral GM Hiranandani has accurately chronicled the deployment of INS Vikrant during the 1971 Indo-Pak war in his book Transition to Triumph: The Indian Navy. In this war, INS Vikrant dominated the Eastern maritime theatre where it repeatedly struck ports in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), destroyed about 60,000 tons of merchant shipping and sank a number of Pakistani war vessels. In sum, Vikrant was instrumental in enforcing a maritime blockade of East Pakistan.

In recent years, aircraft carriers have proven their capability in various conflicts such as the First Gulf War in 1990 (Operation Desert Storm), the War on Terror in Afghanistan in 2001 (Operation Enduring Freedom) and the Second Gulf War in 2003 (Operation Iraqi Freedom). Significantly, carriers have played an equally crucial role in containing and managing less than war situations, demonstrating national will and supporting friendly countries. In India’s context, the possible roles of aircraft carriers could be supporting the land battle, security of Sea Lines of Communication, protecting vital interests overseas and defence of island territories. Captain Gurpreet Khurana of the Indian Navy has elucidated these roles in an article titled eAircraft Carriers and India’s Naval Doctrine’.

While most advanced navies accept the importance of aircraft carriers, critics have often called these versatile platforms as a “self-licking ice-cream cone” and a “white elephant”, highlighting the need for a large number of escorts to protect the carrier. Lee Willet has rebutted such criticism in the book ‘British Naval Aviation : The First Hundred Years’. He calls attention to the fact that “no carrier has been sunk since 1945 and the vulnerability of carriers is not a military matter but an enduring one for budgetary and inter-service battles”. Former Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash is of the view that rather than needing protection from a large number of escorts, the carrier actually provides protection to the force that may accompany it.

Although the debate on the cost effectiveness of aircraft carriers is likely to continue, their role and need in naval warfare cannot be overstated. The United States, for example, was only able to respond to the Korean crisis in time because it had readily deployable carriers on call. Similarly, it was the carriers HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible that enabled the United Kingdom to defend the Falkland Islands.

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In an incisive article titled “Lessons from Modern Warfare: What the Conflicts of the Post-Cold War Years Should Have Taught Us”, Benjamin Lambeth concludes that aircraft carriers can substitute land-based airpower and sometimes they are the only available option for wielding airpower. Very often, though, aircraft carriers supplement land-based airpower, as evidenced by the performance of the US Navy’s carriers in Operation Iraqi Freedom. These characteristics of deck-based air power are critical for India’s maritime security. With ever increasing maritime trade, investments overseas and presence of a large Indian diaspora across the globe, there is no way to guarantee security of our maritime interests other than an assured reach in distant regions and the ability to respond quickly in the face of a developing crisis. The navy, by virtue of its mobility, reach, sustainability and versatility can preserve our maritime interests overseas as well as at home in our maritime zones and island territories. However, when ships are deployed beyond the reach of shore-based aircraft, they require support from carrier-based aircraft. This ability of the aircraft carriers to protect own forces and project power ashore is what makes them a key component of naval power.

As India prepares to secure its maritime interests in a gradually changing global strategic stage, there is an emergence of a complex security scenario in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and beyond. The rise of an assertive China and its far-reaching repercussions across economic, geo-strategic and cultural domains symbolises the turbulence in global affairs in general and the Indo-Pacific in particular. The rapid modernisation of the Chinese Navy – which is now the world’s largest navy, according to a report released earlier this year by the United States Department of Defence – is of primary concern to its neighbours. The Chinese Navy presently operates two aircraft carriers and is building two more which would be significantly larger and more capable. The consequences of such an exponential growth in China’s naval capability will most likely have consequences for India’s maritime security.

The pan-IOR vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) articulated by the Indian Prime Minister requires a robust and agile Navy which is capable of ensuring secure seas in our areas of maritime interest and responding to a wide range of potential crises in the region. Aircraft carriers are the sine qua non for such a Navy which aspires to secure core national interests. It is through perspicacity of the Navy’s earliest leadership and the consistent guidance and course corrections of their successors, that the Indian Navy has built a credible and effective air arm today. This needs to be preserved and further bolstered in order to forge an adaptive capability to address the emerging regional maritime challenges.

(Binay Kumar Singh is an author & researcher and can be reached at Twitter: @BinayBharat, e-mail:

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Armed forces spearhead India’s Covid battle

At a time when millions have been literally gasping for breath, the armed forces have fanned out far beyond India’s borders on a HADR mission that has no precedence, reports Ateet Sharma

The Indian armed forces earned international accolades when they reached to people in distress from Indonesia to Sri Lanka during the infamous Asian Tsunami of 2004.

As an undersea earthquake triggered mammoth waves that devastated long stretches of the Indian Ocean coastline, Indian warships rose to the occasion providing HADR to people well beyond India’s maritime borders.

But the second wave of Covid-19 have by a wide margin, dwarfed the HADR demands of the Asian Tsunami. At a time when millions have been literally gasping for breath, the armed forces have fanned out far beyond India’s borders on a HADR mission that has no precedence.

Right at this moment, containers filled with Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) are being loaded on to Indian Navy’s INS Jalashwa�the navy’s massive tanker, in Brunei. INS Shardul has entered Kuwait today. Simultaneously, and with clockwork precision, Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft are ferrying home life-saving oxygen from several corners of the globe.

Till early hours of Wednesday, IAF planes had conducted 98 sorties from different countries, airlifting 95 containers of 793 Metric Tonnes (MT) capacity and other hardware of 204 MT capacity. This equipment has been ferreted from Singapore, Dubai, Thailand, Germany, Australia, Belgium, Indonesia, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Israel and France.

The IAF has also airlifted 403 oxygen containers of 6,856 MT capacity along with other equipment of 163 MT capacity, in 634 sorties from different parts of the country. The cities covered are Jamnagar, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Panagarh, Indore, Ranchi, Agra, Jodhpur, Begumpet, Bhubaneshwar, Pune, Surat, Raipur, Udaipur, Mumbai, Lucknow, Nagpur, Gwalior, Vijayawada, Baroda, Dimapur and Hindan.

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As part of operation Samudra Setu II, seven Indian Naval ships have returned home with 260 MT of LMO from 13 containers for direct supply to various states, eight oxygen containers of total capacity 160 MT, approximately 2,600 oxygen filled cylinders and 3,150 empty cylinders for oxygen from the Gulf and Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, heavy load carriers TATRA vehicles and military grade railway bogies of the Indian Army are moving heavy machinery, oxygen generators and cryogenic tankers to ensure their timely delivery.

The hospitals set up by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) at New Delhi, Patna, Ahmedabad, Lucknow and some other places that are scheduled to come up, such as that in Varanasi, are all being manned by more than 500 armed forces doctors and nurses. A large number of Battle Field Nursing Assistants (BFNAs), soldiers/sailors/airmen, who are trained in basic medical care, have also been deployed to assist the trained workforce.

The paramilitary forces and home-grown voluntary organisations have also not been far behind this mammoth relief effort. For instance, in the national capital, the Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) has teamed up with the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Policy (ITBP) to care for the Covid infected. The two organisations are working together at the sprawling Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Covid Care Centre (SPCCC) at Chhawla in western Delhi.

“On a daily basis 250 volunteers are preparing four meals a day � from Karra early in the morning, to breakfast, lunch, the evening tea and dinner � for every soul inside the Covid care centre,” said an office-bearer of the RSSB in Chhatarpur, in the capital, as quoted by Hindustan Times.

A new and a typically Indian hybrid model of HADR where the men and women in uniform are enmeshing with social organisation, imbued in the inclusive spirit of “seva” or service without strings, is rising to the occasion to defeat a deadly disease.

(This content is being carried under an arrangement with

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Tech Lite Technology USA

Future is truly unmanned

While air power inarguably retains great value in present day warfare, it is rapidly imbuing an unmanned character. The US Department of Defence (DoD), in its Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap 2005-2030, defines UAVs as “A powered aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator, uses aerodynamic forces to provide vehicle lift, can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely, can be expendable or recoverable, and can carry a lethal or non-lethal payload”, writes Binay Kumar Singh

The manned fighter aircraft is dead!

The Air Warfare Symposium, conducted by the US Air Force Association on 27 and 28 February, 2020, may go down in history as an event where history was foretold. It was here, on the morning of 28 February, 2020, that Elon Musk, the quintessential disruptor, set the cat among the pigeons. In a room overflowing with Air Force personnel, many fighter pilots among them, Musk famously predicted the end of the manned fighter aircraft. Much consternation followed, and copious amounts of newsprint was invested in the counter-narrative that flowed, mainly from the US Air Force and its veterans. Notably, much of the criticism of Musk’s proclamation was aimed at targeting him personally as a ‘head-line grabber’, rather than to disprove his assertion through solid logic and evidence. This is probably indicative of the fact that Musk’s prediction may hold more than a modicum of truth.

History Tells a Story. History is replete with examples of path-breaking inventions being viewed with disdain at inception, and thought either impractical or even impossible. For instance, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in 1918 was quite dismissive of aviation, and had famously said that “airplanes are interesting toys, but of no military value.” The past Century, and the significant role that air power has played in conflicts therein, from WWI and WWII to the Gulf Wars as well as the 1971 Indo-Pak wars, bear testimony to the inaccuracy of Marshal Foch’s proclamation. However, in a similar vein, it may be imprudent to wish away the monumental technological advancements of recent years and the potential for change that they portend, merely because such changes may be undesirable, sound improbable or, in some cases, seem outlandish.

The age of unmanned systems

While air power inarguably retains great value in present day warfare, it is rapidly imbuing an unmanned character. The US Department of Defence (DoD), in its Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap 2005-2030, defines UAVs as “A powered aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator, uses aerodynamic forces to provide vehicle lift, can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely, can be expendable or recoverable, and can carry a lethal or non-lethal payload.” The extensive use of drones by the US across the world, the clear advantages drawn by Azerbaijan over Armenia in their recent conflict, and numerous other examples, point to the manner in which unmanned aircraft technology can serve as a force multiplier. As far back as 2013, analyst Dan Parsons had estimated that “future autonomous air refueling of unmanned systems would accord them the capability to remain ‘on station’ for months, and allow all roles from combat to cargo handling.” The question that bears consideration, therefor, is can unmanned aircraft (drones) become the mainstay of air power in the near future (2030)?

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Advanced Air Defence Systems

Concomitant with the advent of unmanned aerial systems, modern Air Defence has also witnessed significant advances in capability. Integrated Air Defence Systems (IADS) have become the order of the day, characterized by highly mobile sensors and weapons, organised in a multi-layered manner. Within these systems, weapons like the Russian S-400 and Chinese HQ-9 cover a significantly large area. Analysts estimate that Russian IADS deployed on NATO’s Eastern Flank threaten to keep NATO Air Power at arm’s length.

AD Systems Vs Drones

While AD systems have evolved, increasing number of actors are opting to use drones as a mitigating measure. For instance, in mid-2020, Turkish supplied drones assisted the Libyan Govt of National Accord in destroying Russian Pantsir SHORADS being used by rebel forces. Similarly, the drone attacks on Aramco in Saudi Arabia also underscored the relative advantages that these unmanned aerial systems possess. In this instance, Saudi Arabian Air Defence Systems proved helpless when two oil facilities were attacked by alleged Houthi rebels, who launched 18 drones and seven cruise missiles against two facilities on 14 September 2019. Evidently, unmanned aerial systems in conjunction with long-range missiles, offer an option that is more viable against expensive, highly capable AD systems, as compared to equally expensive, and resource-intensive manned aircraft.

Modern long-range missilesModern long-range missiles

As the US plans for an increasingly challenging ‘great power competition’ scenario with China, the Pentagon appears to have realised that air support may not be readily available to ground troops caught in a high intensity conflict over heavily contested air spaces. Accordingly, the US Army has rated ‘Long Range Precision Fire’ as its highest priority. In consonance with this outlook, Lockheed Martin’s website advertises development of a next-generation, modular Precision Strike Missile, in conjunction with the Army. Long-range ballistic/ quasi-ballistic trajectory missiles offer the government a relatively cheaper option to undertake precision attack, as compared to the large number of prohibitively expensive manned aircraft squadrons, currently maintained for such a role.

The future air force

From a Balanced to an Unmanned Force. At present, many Air Forces across the world are striving to achieve a balance between manned and unmanned systems, based on threat perceptions, budgets and desired capabilities. However, as alluded to by Elon Musk, the day of the manned aircraft may soon be over. This flows from the following aspects:-

The cost of unmanned aircraft will be significantly lower than manned aircraft. Financial savings will accrue, not only from the relatively lower cost of Unmanned Aircraft (UA), but also from the fact that expenditure on training will evolve. This would, initially cover ground based controllers and, eventually, to no controllers at all, as UAs gradually become completely autonomous. This will lead to further savings resulting from reduced requirement of flying to maintain pilot currency, decreased pay and allowances expenditure, etc.

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The potential losses suffered in battle would not include precious human lives.

Countries will increasingly realise that sending in unmanned aircraft to penetrate defended air space may be more cost effective. Justin Bronk, the Editor of RUSI Defence Systems, had predicted a “significant move towards unmanned systems for vanguard penetrating roles”.

Manned aircraft carry missiles, as can unmanned aircraft. The features mandated onboard an aircraft designed for manned flight are significantly more than on an unmanned one, e.g. ejection seats, Head-Up Displays, etc.

At present, an air strike into hostile or contested areas mandates a comprehensive air package comprising a wide array of aircraft, from AWACS to EW escorts, AD escorts, et al. In effect, the number of actual strike aircraft in a package is only a small proportion of the overall number of aircraft deployed. In an unmanned scenario, this requirement will reduce drastically, leading to further cost saving.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven unmanned aircraft

AI is slowly becoming ubiquitous in nature, and organisations across the world are scrambling to harness the immense potential of this niche technology. Militaries are no different, and numerous air forces have also invested heavily in research and development in this field. DARPA recently undertook a simulated flight combat competition pitting a top US fighter pilot against AI in five rounds of combat. The AI program won all five rounds in under two minutes.

While this may not lead to a definitive conclusion that the fighter pilot is no longer required, it does point to the possibilities that the future portends.

Land and sea-based long-range vectors

Apart from the effect that UAs will have on the size, role and capabilities of a future Air Force, the advent of long-range, precision vectors � sea-based and land-based � will also play a key role. The following aspects assume salience:-

Land-based vectors

Existing land-based capabilities, already extend to thousands of kilometres, which comfortably covers most areas in India’s immediate vicinity. Added to this is the strategic location of India’s island territories, where mobile, long-range missile batteries (Brahmos) could be positioned. This would be able to exert influence over large swaths of sea areas, including choke points. Such deployment of missiles, in lieu of aircraft, would accrue financial savings as well. This derives from the fact that expensive airfields would no longer need to be maintained for manned flights on these islands.

Sea-based vectors

With regard to sea-based vectors, it is common knowledge that 70 per cent of the earth is covered with water which, as a corollary, also implies accessibility for sea-based forces to almost every part of the globe. For instance, in the Indian context, the long range Nirbhay missile (also a product of ‘Made in India’) is reported to have advanced features, including sea-skimming/ terrain-hugging and loiter capabilities. It is also estimated to be capable of an extended range of over 1000 Km. Coupled with this, development of modern, sea-based, long-range vectors provide naval forces the capability to address targets deep in the hinterland. Therefore, the need for air forces to traverse long distances, using multiple support aircraft (AWACS/ FRA), escorts, etc, to strike distant targets is steadily diminishing.

The issues highlighted above are indicative of the role of future air forces being limited primarily to supporting friendly forces in the Tactical Battle Area. Collectively, these aspects along with developments in the field of unmanned systems, buttress the case for a re-evaluation of the future structure of air forces.

Representational pic (ANI)
The smart way ahead

USA has drawn out a clear roadmap for UA induction, including fighter aircraft. It may be prudent to adopt a similarly aspirational outlook and plan for a calibrated move from manned to completely unmanned and autonomous air power. In the case of India, with adversarial nations to the West and North, the savings accrued from charting the unmanned course would free up budgets for much required capabilities such as additional Mountain Strike Corps, Submarines and Aircraft Carriers � also carrying unmanned aircraft.

Strategic guidance

Prime Minster Narendra Modi has clearly laid down the guidance and vision for the Country in terms of adoption of innovations, AI, niche technologies and the need to ‘leapfrog’ capability gaps. His expectations and intent were made amply clear through his articulation that “India is placed to leverage power of technology and leapfrog into the future.” In the military sense, the low hanging fruit is air power, which can easily evolve to becoming a completely unmanned force in the medium term.


China is investing heavily in AI and niche technologies, many of which will enable and drive a move to unmanned aerial assets. It would be short-sighted at best, and disastrous at worst, for India to be left behind in this race for transformation into unmanned air power. Hence, while it may be tempting to dismiss claims such as those made by Elon Musk as outlandish, and easy to provide convenient self-serving logic for retaining manned air forces, it may result in India sliding backwards, rather than surging forward in the race for technology and military capabilities. Hence, embracing unmanned solutions in lieu of the current philosophy of manned aircraft will be operationally relevant, financially prudent, and conceptually futuristic. We need to open our eyes and mind to see that the future is truly unmanned.

(Binay Kumar Singh is an author and columnist. He can be reached at Twitter: @BinayBharat. The views expressed are personal)

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