The IAF on Thursday dismissed suggestions that its capabilities and strength were weaker than that of China and Pakistan, with Air Chief Marshal P V Naik saying "we are not a rag-tag air force".
Naik told reporters at Hindon near Delhi that the IAF fighter squadron strength, though down to 32-33 at present, would increase beginning 2014 and attain maximum levels by 2022.
"Yeh chhota mota, chunnu munnu air force nahi hai. Jitna bhi strength hain abhi, kafi hai. Lekhin isse zyada badhni chaiye (This is not a rag-tag air force. The strength we have now is enough. But it should grow in the future)," the Air Force chief said on the sidelines of the Air Force Day parade at the airbase here.
He said the IAF's strength was going through the last downward curve and that it will only grow from here.
"Kyon ki, hamari capability plan hai. Uske mutabik, bahut cheezen aani chaiye. (Because, there is our capability plan. According to it, lots of platform and equipment will be coming)," he added.
He gave examples of Israeli 'Phalcon' Airborne Early Warning Systems, new radars, Aerostats and the 126 medium multirole combat aircraft for which test trials of six contending aircraft is in progress.
IAF has already got delivery of a Phalcon radar mounted on an IL-76 transport aircraft and has based it in Agra. It has also got a few Aerostats already and deployed them along the borders with Pakistan in the western sector.
Earlier, addressing the air warriors at the parade, Naik said a large number of acquisitions, including helicopters and transport aircraft, would be in place in the next few years.
"They will provide a quantum leap to the IAF's operational capability. While new inductions are following one after another, present systems have got to carry on," he said, referring to the ageing MiG fighters and Ilyushin and Antonov transport aircraft, Mil helicopters and equipment from Russia.
"A great responsibility lies on all of us, to ensure that while we absorb new technology, we continue operating all current systems, effectively and efficiently," he added.
Naik said the first AWACS, which is under operational induction, would change the very manner that IAF carried out both offensive and defensive operations.
Though the government had initiated austerity measures for "rationalisation of expenditure and optimisation of available resources," he said the capability expansion plans of the IAF would continue "without compromising on operational preparedness" of the force.
"We must exercise financial prudence and further economise our expenditure," he advised the IAF personnel.
Naik said he saw a future where the IAF would project its aerospace power "credibly" within its zone of influence with "precision, speed, and high intensity, against a variety of objectives.
"The IAF has to be capable of dominating the entire spectrum of information, cyberspace and airspace so that we can conduct operations efficiently and on our terms," he said.
Naik also pushed for rapid strides towards attaining net centricity for the air force and stressed that cyber security was of "paramount importance".
He said last year, IAF's operational preparedness was at an all time high, stretching its resources. "Today, the prevailing situation is such that we have to maintain a certain level of constant readiness," he said.
Referring to the IAF's AN-32 landings in Daulat Beig Oldi, Fukche and Nyoma in the last 18 months, the Air Force chief said in spite of a mixed inventory and home-grown tactics, the IAF always ensured winning capabilities.
He said air maintenance for the Army and paramilitary forces both in the northern and eastern sectors continued with about 37,000 tonne airlifted annually.
And so did the aid to civil power by the helicopter fleets, which have increased progressively over the years with over 600 sorties and 400 tonne relief operations this year alone, he added.
Naik said the IAF would continue with military diplomacy and address issues of interoperability with foreign military through a series of international exercises, including the one with Oman and the Cope-India exercise with the US, both planned for this month. PTI