As tensions continue between India and Pakistan over the abrogation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa on Tuesday said the Indian Air Force (IAF) is "always cautious and alert" to check any untoward aerial movement on the border.
He also said the IAF is replacing the high-end obsolete weapon with indigenously developed ones that will boost in-house defence manufacturing, however, "to win a war, we also need high-end, high-tech items, which we need to import".
"We have seen their (Pakistan's) deployment. The Indian Air Force is always cautious. We are responsible for air defence and we are always alert," Dhanoa said when asked about the situation at the Indo-Pak border.
He was interacting with reporters on the sidelines of a seminar on "Modernisation and Indigenisation plans of the Indian Air Force" at the IAF Auditorium IN New Delhi.
"It is not that something has happened so we have become cautious. We are always alert. The Air Force is prepared not only when an enemy aircraft ventures in, but we also keep an eye on civilian aircraft so that incidents like Purulia airdrop do not happen," Dhanoa said.
The Line of Control (LoC) has witnessed several exchanges of fire between the Indian and Pakistani forces since the government repealed the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave a special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated the state into two Union territories -- Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Earlier, in his keynote address at the seminar, Dhanoa said the IAF is the fourth largest air force in the world and it has grown into a multi-spectrum air force with the use of force multipliers and other assets.
"Upgrading of legacy assets is an ongoing process and indigenisation should continue to achieve self-reliance in defence manufacturing," he said.
On aircraft, he said, "Fifth-generation fighter aircraft are the reality and the next generation one is on the drawing board."
"But can we afford a victory in such a process? If there is no war, we cannot wait for indigenous technology to replace obsolescent equipment, neither will it be prudent to import every defence equipment from abroad," the IAF chief said.
On indigenisation, Dhanoa gave examples of the Rohini and Rudra radars, the Astra missile and other critical assets.
"The credit must also go to the ADA National Flight Test Centre, as we have not lost a single light combat aircraft in flight testing since January 2001. While on other platforms earlier, we have paid with lives of our test flight pilots and engineers," he said.
Since Independence, 19 pilots and engineers have been killed in air accidents in-flight testing and evaluation of the indigenous Marut, Kiran, Ajit and prototype aircraft, Dhanoa said.
"Recently, we lost two young and extremely competent pilots during the testing of Mirage-2000 upgrade in HAL, Bangalore," he added.
The seminar was for the Indian industry to better understand what were the requirements of the IAF, and have convergence of various stakeholders.
"It goes to the credit to our MiG-21 aircraft, which is almost 44 years old and which I can fly. I am sure no one would like to drive a car of that vintage," Dhanoa said.