Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Indian Air Force Must be Ready to Fight China and India Today, says its Commanding Officer

China, Pakistan in the crosshairs

(Photo : IAF) Su-30MKIs of the IAF.

Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, Chief of the Air Staff of the Indian Air Force (IAF), has ordered his commanders to raise the combat readiness of their air wings and squadrons to the extent they're able to immediately fight a 15-day war against China and a 10-day war against Pakistan.

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This surprising order to immediately raise the IAF's combat readiness was issued during an IAF commanders' conference in New Delhi last week. In response to this order, the Directorate of Air Staff Inspection (DASI) has been ordered to ascertain the combat readiness of all operational units.

DASI has also been ordered to keep personnel and IAF aircraft combat-ready, and ensure the immediate availability of supplies and weapons such as air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles and smart bombs. Radar systems monitoring both China and Pakistan must be operational 24/7.

DASI assesses the tactical and operational level of IAF aircraft to ensure they're capable of meeting combat requirements in a war.

"Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa has directed the IAF commanders to prepare for short duration but intense wars of 10 days in case of Pakistan and 15 days with China to maintain razor-sharp operational preparedness and enhanced combat effectiveness," said a senior IAF officer quoted by Indian media.

Marshal Dhanoa's order highlights the key importance of combat support operations in successful aerial campaigns. Stocking large quantities of munitions directly supports the IAF's new strategy of fighting a short but intensely brutal air war.

This new strategy is spelled-out in the "Joint Doctrine of the Armed Forces-2017," a document released by the Indian Armed Forces only last week. This report contends the character of future wars is likely to be "ambiguous, uncertain, short, swift, lethal, intense, precise, non-linear, unstructured, unpredictable, and hybrid."

As a result, the IAF's role must change. The IAF will rely very heavily on its huge fleet of Sukhoi Su-30 MKI multirole air superiority fighters for victory in aerial campaigns against China and Pakistan.

IAF operates 230 Su-30MKIs, a number that should exceed 300 by next year. The Su-30MKI will remain the backbone of the IAF's fighter fleet well beyond 2020.

In contrast, the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) operates the Su-30MKK variant while the People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force operates the Su-30MK2. China operates 76 Su-30MKK and 24 Su-30MK2.

The most numerous PLAAF fighter, however, is the Shenyang J-11 air superiority fighter, of which some 200 are in service.

The Pakistan Air Force's most numerous fighter is the CAC/PAC JF-17 Thunder multi-role aircraft co-developed by Pakistan and China. PAF operates some 90 of this aircraft.

Other fighters in service with PAF are the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon air superiority fighter (76 aircraft) and the Dassault Mirage III interceptor (75 aircraft).

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