China deploying fighters in Tibet, Pakistan backing attacks, says IAF chief
Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said the deployment of Sukhoi-27 and J-10 fleets (in Tibet) for continuous operations during winter months affords People’s Liberation Army Air Force a credible year round capability.
Indian Air Force chief BS Dhanoa on Thursday drew attention to a “significant increase” in deployment of Chinese fighter jets in Tibet and warned against Pakistan backing more terror attacks on Indian military bases, in a frank assessment of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s “capabilities” and the Pakistan “scenario and strategy.”
Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa also disapproved of the concept of theatre commands saying it would require creation of more assets, at a time the utility of such integrated commands is being discussed by the government.
“The deployment of Sukhoi-27 and J-10 fleets (in Tibet) for continuous operations during winter months affords them a credible year round capability,” Dhanoa said during a talk on the Role of IAF in the Changing Security Environment.
He said the “inherent operational disadvantages” that PLAAF faced in Tibet included altitude, low temperatures and lack of basic infrastructure to protect aircraft on ground.
Well-known think tank Vivekananda International foundation organised the talk.
Dhanoa said PLAAF’s modernisation plans would ensure that half of its fleet consists of advanced multi-role combat aircraft at a time the IAF is struggling with a shortage of warplanes. Compared to an optimum strength of 42-plus units required to fight a two-front war, the count of the IAF’s fighter squadrons has shrunk to 31.
Describing PLAAF as the world’s fastest growing air force that ranked second in terms of combat airpower, the air chief said China had a credible mix of multirole fighters and strike aircraft, and “adequate reserves to replenish” after attrition.
“There’s a misconception that the IAF doesn’t need 42 squadrons. That would have been true if our adversaries continued to operate 2nd and 3rd generation fighters. If they go for 4th generation jets, you also need modern fighters. You are not fighting against vacuum,” Dhanoa said.
He said China had developed a modern air force that relied on quality rather than quantity, under an aggressive aerospace capability enhancement plan. The air chief stressed that multi-layered air defence systems allowed China to fight a ground campaign without the need for a decisive aerial victory.
“We need to plan as per an adversary’s capabilities, for intentions may change overnight,” he said.
On Pakistan, Dhanoa said it would keep the “Kashmir pot boiling” and back attacks on Indian military bases as was seen during strikes in Pathankot, Uri, Nagrota and Jammu. “Such attacks may have unintended consequences and lead to escalation,” he said.
The air chief said Pakistan army did not want peace as then its generals would not be able “to send their children to Ivy League universities and settle in London.”
On theatre commands, the air chief said Indian fighter jets could get airborne from Pune and engage targets across the northern frontiers with the help of air-to-air refuelling.
“Compartmentalising will require more assets. We believe in one country, one theatre,” he said, pointing out the pitfalls of cherry picking concepts of western war fighting.
If and when such integrated commands are raised, the assets of all three services would come under the operational control of a three-star officer from any of the three services, depending on the function assigned to that command.