Painting a grim picture of India’s combat readiness, a Parliamentary panel on Monday dropped a bombshell by revealing that the force levels of the Indian Air Force are down to a mere 25 fighter squadrons. The IAF till recently had maintained it had 32-34 squadrons with about 18 planes each.
But the revelation by the standing committee on defence in a report tabled in Parliament indicates the IAF's traditional air superiority over Pakistan may have been severely diluted.
India requires 45 fighter squadrons to counter a “two-front collusive threat,” but the panel found that the air force has only 25 active fighter units.
"Moreover, 14 of these squadrons are equipped with MiG-21 and MiG – 27 which will retire between 2015- 2024. Thus the strength will be reduced to just 11 squadrons by 2024..our capability has already come down,” the panel said.
It flagged concerns about India’s depleting military capability in the context of tackling a two-front challenge – euphemism for a combined threat from China and Pakistan.
The committee slammed the government for its failure to modernise the armed forces and asked it to take prompt measures to plug crucial gaps.
The panel noted crippling deficiencies in military equipment was fast-eroding India’s capability vis-à-vis its neighbours. The reports enumerated challenges being faced by the military ranging from inadequate number of fighter planes to shortfall of warships, missiles, tanks and even bullet proof jackets.
The panel found the navy had inducted only one submarine during the last 15 years, while it had retired five. “It’s high time that adequate budgetary provisions are made so that deficiencies are mitigated and the country is capable to take on two front challenges,” the panel said.
The panel expressed deep concerns over “critical shortages” of artillery guns and missiles. Dubbing missiles a “very crucial component” in any modern force “with a high deterrent value”, the committee said missiles should be made available to the army in required quantity. The panel was perturbed to learn that bullet-proof vests had not been bought by the defence ministry, “jeopardizing the lives of thousands of soldiers.”
The panel was surprised to note that the government was raising a mountain strike corps but no separate allocation had been made for it. “An amount of Rs 5000 crore has been earmarked for it but it is not over and above the actual budget allocated and the Army has been asked to raise this Corps out of its own budget,” it said.