Indian Air Force Maintaining strategic equilibrium

Indian Air Force faces two possible threats in the future in the form of Pakistan Air Force in the North West and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force breathing down its neck at the nation’s North Eastern boundary. PAF although a significantly smaller threat when compared to PLAAF is nevertheless a threat. PLAAF on the other hand enjoys numerical superiority which will soon tip the balance to technological and numerical superiority with the completion of the currently developing J-20, the Chinese fifth generation air superiority fighter.

So the obvious question now is “How will Indian Air Force maintain equilibrium?”
The answer is quiet simple but it involves a lot of planning and development and not to put aside the amount of money involved to keep things balanced. Regardless of all the hype and noise the fact is that the PLAAF majorly consists of third generation vintage aircrafts which are obsolete in design and capabilities. Putting that aside they do have some really good equipment namely:-
Chengdu –J10 (a newer version J-10B is currently under flight testing)
Su-30MKK
Su-27

The rest are either vintage or simply a copy of the above two Sukhoi aircrafts. For example the J-11B is an outright copy of the Su-27 which is nothing short of daylight robbery.

To meet these threats IAF currently works on acquiring and gaining experience and knowledge on the fifth generation Russian stealth fighter the PAK FA. India plans on acquiring 200 of these fifth generation fighter jets. Out of the 200 50 will be single seaters and the rest will be two seaters. A naval version of the PAK FA is also on the cards.

Next in the line is the MMRCA deal (Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft). The deal currently is valued at 12 billion US $ and as of now both the Euro Fighter Typhoon and the Dassault Rafale have been shortlisted by the IAF. Both these aircrafts have amazing flight characteristics and capabilities. They have also had a fair share of action in both Libya and Afghanistan. The winner will be awarded with a deal for 126 aircrafts initially with the expansion to a total of 200 fighters.

IAF already operates top of the line 4.5th generation fighters namely the Su-30MKI which are evidently a lot different from their Chinese counterparts, the current strength remains at 142 which will gradually become 272 of which 40 will be upgraded to carry the Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles. However all the Su-30MKI’s will be upgraded with the latest development in ECM suite and the proposed  Zhuk-AE AESA radars giving it a sharp and definite edge over the PLAAF’s Su-30MKK’s.

Currently the MiG-29’s in the IAF are also being upgraded to the MiG-29UPG standard giving them a new lease of life and capabilities which include much more efficiency and effectiveness.
Dassault Mirage 2000’s currently fills the primary multirole fighter category which will be later replenished later on by the MRCA’s and the AMCA’s.

MiG-21’s serve the role of interceptors a total of 200 from which 121 have been upgraded to the bison standards further increasing their life span however all of them will be soon replaced by the HAL Tejas (LCA).

SEPECAT Jaguars and the MiG-27 full fills role of strike attack and support aircrafts IAF operates 139 Jaguars and about a 100 MiG-27’s. Let’s keep in mind that these aircrafts are still in service in a number of other air forces too. But however these too will be later on replaced by the AMCA (Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft) which itself is a 5th generation fighter.

An interesting upgrade is the development of the K-100 Novator AAM which are usually termed as the “AWACS killer” due to its range of up to 200kms. These missiles will be mated with the Su-30MKI platform which gives the IAF a decisive edge from the PLAAF since AWACS platforms will be in jeopardy with the induction of this missile into service.

So from my point of view PLAAF doesn’t really have any clear advantage over the IAF in the near future if all the pieces of the puzzle fit together it might even get outgunned by the Indian Air Force.

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About Tommy Philip

  • Vaibhav

    really informative…Air force is one aspect which has a defining role in any combat…India needs to fill the "pieces of the puzzle fit together"

    • Tommy Philip

      Vaibhav precisely in the event of a confrontation ,god forbid. IAF is going to be the biggest asset provided the deals and procurements work out accordingly.

  • Chen Phen

    It's the man in the machine (aircraft) which counts. PLAAF and PAF have such diehards, time will tell when it'll come.

    • Tommy Philip

      Chen Phen no disrespects to both the PLAAF and PAF I am sure that they are as patriotic and brave as the men in IAF.

    • Nishant

      My respect to all the individuals who fight for their country and I am sure that diehards exist in all the forces. History does show that a defender is more committed that an attacker and the IAF has a definite edge there since it is not interested in attacking any of its neighbors but has a primarily defensive strategy. Again, in all the wars till date, the IAF has always come out trumps over its Pakistani and Chinese counterparts…

  • Animesh

    well,as an Indian, i am thankful for all the information but it would be better if Chinese development was also to be discussed in great detail. That will give a true picture to everyone reading this article. At the same time, i believe Chinese are not going to sleep over this development.(Well they are already testing a stealth bomber(not J-20)) and other development are in place.

    • Tommy Philip

      Well the article was supposed to be as simply put as possible, I didn't want to overwhelm an amateur who might come across this one. And yeah China is a very close threat but for every move they make we have plans and equipment (developing) to counter them.

  • eddie

    IAF is way ahead to PLAAF. though we are less in numbers but we should not panic (j-20) or any bomber . we are in progress of making FGFA and AMCA. LCA is on the card.

  • Tommy Philip

    @eddie
    LCA is not on the card that card has been dealt , and yeah AMCA and FGFA is coming up FGFA is already confirmed but AMCA is still on the drawing board

  • Rohan

    LCA is very much in the reckoning considering we IAF don't have the capacity to strike out china inside its territory so we will be very much involved in dogfights. As china posses a vast arsenal of missile that will come into play IAF will like to put some cheap option in the front to keep the manage minimum in starting. While LCA are purely made for the purpose of dogfights and that must be considered always so in case of initial strike being light weight and having missiles like mica astra r-77 and r-33 series will give advantage to tejas to launch an attack and minimize the numerical superiority of plaaf.

    Tejas will be a advance fighter and will dominate the sky in dogfighting as soon as mk2 version take care of sustain turn rates with higher thrust and levicons.

    While chinese j-20 are no going to as stealthy as f-35 and a l band radar on the side of sukhoi30mki in future will easily take care of that.

    The problem lies in Indias in capability of producing and maintaining advanced aircrafts in huge numbers indigenously while china can roll out hundreds given a war like situation so any day they can tilt the balance with their robust infrastructure. Beside India doesn't posses missile arsenal enough to stop them also we don't have any missile defence system in place that will cost the IAF dearly in war like situation .

    So over all i give full point to tejas specially if it is treated with plasma stealth in future but still plaaf will rule until india comes out with a robust infrastructure and a huge missile arsenal as that will be the key in any future war to take place in this part of world.

  • Subhan

    Indian pilots have proven to match Western standards in terms of training and ability. Given they have to fly large number of inferior machinery, raises respect for them to a whole new level. The Chinese already have more 4.5 gen fighters than the Indian. The only Indian aircraft that outmatches those Chines 4.5 g is the Su30MKI whose numbers are about 165. In real war, even now, China will be on a superior position against Indians since they will operate from higher grounds and have radars placed at high altitude and within mountain range which makes it difficult for any anti radar strike (Climb high and get surprised). Needless to say that a Sino Indian air war will be bloody and prolonged, but the Chinese will prevail. China knows that while it is in a position to teach India "a lesson", it risks at been stretched and the morale level of its airmen tested to limits with a conflict against India. This will seriously jeopardize Chinese ability when countering threat to its Eastern side aided by US, or its future push to middle East in case of an all out “oil-war”. I do not think China will risk air war against India until when they are assured of a relatively quick air victory. Between a Sino Indian conflict, nuclear war is out of question – both side have too much to loose, i.e India will cease as a viable state, and China will recede back 30-40 years as a fourth world country, with all its superpower ambitions gone. Indians can reach Beijing with its Agni-III and in 5-8 years can reach whole of China and much beyond with its Agni-V. Unlike Pakistan whose headstrong Jihadist commanders can foolishly order nuclear strike, Chinese and Indians understand the meaning of nuclear war. Pakistan will probably be wiped from world map if they attack India with nukes, but the environmental damage from the radioactive cloud blowing from Pakistan will too high even for Indians.
    The J-20 entering into Chinese service ahead of the PAK-FA will be a game changer and would mean technological superiority of the Chinese over Indian. Given the commendable rate of production of Chinese aircraft, and the slow bureaucracy of Indians, it is a forgone conclusion, that Chinese will always enjoy numerical superiority enemy in the future also.
    It is a paradox why China and India should be future enemies in the first place. While China aspires of being a superpower, India aspires for its due recognition, place in the world and its sphere of influence. With its juggernaut population to maintain, India will never be a superpower in 100 years. Probably China feels that it can ease its population pressure by occupying Tawang or something like that, but the risks are severely high. Rather it should build trust with India and ensure India do not tilt militarily to US. Probably it wants to eliminate a competitor for resources, but the competitor (India) can never match China in political decision making and unified foreign policy strategy given its fractured decision making process and diverse opinions in its coalition politics. about 165. In real war, even now, China will be on a superior position against Indians since they will operate from higher grounds and have radars placed at high altitude and within mountain range which makes it difficult for any anti radar strike (Climb high and get surprised). Needless to say that a Sino Indian air war will be bloody and prolonged, but the Chinese will prevail. China knows that while it is in a position to teach India "a lesson", it risks at been stretched and the morale level of its airmen tested to limits with a conflict against India. This will seriously jeopardize Chinese ability when countering threat to its Eastern side aided by US, or its future push to middle East in case of an all out “oil-war”. I do not think China will risk air war against India until when they are assured of a relatively quick air victory. Between a Sino Indian conflict, nuclear war is out of question – both side have too much to loose, i.e India will cease as a viable state, and China will recede back 30-40 years as a fourth world country, with all its superpower ambitions gone. Indians can reach Beijing with its Agni-III and in 5-8 years can reach whole of China and much beyond with its Agni-V. Unlike Pakistan whose headstrong Jihadist commanders can foolishly order nuclear strike, Chinese and Indians understand the meaning of nuclear war. Pakistan will probably be wiped from world map if they attack India with nukes, but the environmental damage from the radioactive cloud blowing from Pakistan will too high even for Indians.
    The J-20 entering into Chinese service ahead of the PAK-FA will be a game changer and would mean technological superiority of the Chinese over Indian. Given the commendable rate of production of Chinese aircraft, and the slow bureaucracy of Indians, it is a forgone conclusion, that Chinese will always enjoy numerical superiority enemy in the future also.

  • Subhan

    It is a paradox why China and India should be future enemies in the first place. While China aspires of being a superpower, India aspires for its due recognition, place in the world and its sphere of influence. With its juggernaut population to maintain, India will never be a superpower in 100 years. Probably China feels that it can ease its population pressure by occupying Tawang or something like that, but the risks are severely high. Rather it should build trust with India and ensure India do not tilt militarily to US. Probably it wants to eliminate a competitor for resources, but the competitor (India) can never match China in political decision making and unified foreign policy strategy given its fractured decision making process and diverse opinions in its coalition politics.

    PS: I am an Indian

  • imperial

    amca fgfa tejasmk2 su30super sukhoi mig29uav dassault rafael vs j20 su35 su30mkk su27 jf17 j20 well it seems iaf are superior in tech as they have 5th gen but plaaf does’nt have any and better pilots war experienceetc india lags behind in terms of number plaaf is offensive iaf is defensive so its tech vs number defense vs offense note j20 is 4.5 gen not 5gen sources chinese defence wikipaedia indian defence

  • imperial

    sorry for last comment j20 is fifth gen

  • Suvojit Roychowdhury

    good one but I think India have around 180-190 su30MKI right now…

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