Highlighting the challenges the India Air Force (IAF) faces on account of shortage of fighter jets, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa has said that the situation was ‘akin to a cricket team playing with seven players instead of 11’.
According to a report in The Indian Express, the IAF Chief said that the force’s authorised strength of 42 fighter squadrons ‘is the minimum strength necessary to dominate a two-front conflict’ threat from Pakistan and China. The IAF currently has 32 fighter squadrons.
“The reduced numbers place a severe handicap akin to a cricket team playing with 7 players instead of 11. Though we are operating under challenging conditions, we have devised mitigating strategies,” the daily quoted him as saying.
“IAF’s plans of prosecuting a two-front scenario with available resources are based on a judicious force employment philosophy. Once the strengths and capabilities are augmented, we would be in a better position to overcome our combat differential and be in a position to dominate the air space,” he added.
He further reiterated that ‘the force is ready for the use of air power against Pakistan in response to a terrorist attack’. But he maintained that ‘it is an option that has to be exercised by the government’.
“The use of air power in response to heinous acts or terrorist attacks is an option that is to be taken by the government. IAF is prepared for any eventuality,” the IAF Chief said.
He also noted that the IAF has the capability and is in a position to strike against the Maoists if the government orders to do so.
He, however, was quick to add that ‘he does not predict any air attacks in country’s own territory’.
“Our roles are restricted to providing intelligence and surveillance to the forces on ground. We use the RPAs (remotely piloted aircraft) extensively in these operations for intelligence collection, as well as helicopters, mainly for speedy movement of forces between area of operations, and casualty evacuation. As far as terrorist threats are concerned, we do not envisage carrying out air attacks on our territory, to prevent any sliver of possibility for collateral damage. But we have the capability, and are in a position to strike as and when we are cleared to do so by the government.”
Earlier this month, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had said that the armed forces are ready for a “two-and-a-half front war”, a reference to Pakistan, China and internal security threats.