The Indian media has expressed shock and dismay over the revelations that the IAF will lose its superiority to the PAF within the next one to two years. The crisis hit Indian Armed Forces, rocked by various scams, corruption allegations and infighting, seems to have overlooked the procurement of much needed fighter aircraft, which is needed to guard its skies.
At present, the IAF is operating 34 fighter jet squadrons, as compared to the 26 operated by the PAF. However, the IAF needs to operate 39.5 squadrons to maintain its superiority over the PAF, due to a wide variety of issues like geographical disadvantage. The squadron strength of the IAF will drop to just 31 during the country’s 12th five year plan (2012-2017). The IAF also plans to phase out around 125 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 fighter jets during 2014-2017. It plans to replace them with the HAL Tejas, whose induction is likely to get delayed.
On the other hand, the PAF is moving forward with a number of high profile aircraft deals. Pakistan recently received 14 General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon (Block-52) aircraft from the US. It is likely to acquire 14 more within a short time. PAF is also actively pursuing aircraft dealings with Chinese aerospace companies. It has finalized a deal to purchase 36 Chengdu J-10 multirole fighter aircraft, from the Chinese aircraft manufacturer Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation. PAF is likely to induct these aircrafts in 2014. Sources within the PAF claim that as many as 150 of these fighter jets will be purchased from China in the long run.
Recently India had finalized a defence deal with the French aerospace manufacturer Dassault Aviation for the delivery of 126 Dassault Rafale Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft. But the deal has come under increasing scrutiny after allegations of kickbacks being given to Indian defence officials. Even if the deal goes forward, the delivery of the fighter jet is expected to take a long time. Earlier the Dassault Rafale was rejected by nations such as Singapore, South Korea, Morocco and Switzerland, citing lack of advanced technology and cost.
Ever since the current Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh took his office for a second term in 2009, the defence scene has remained murky and problematic for the Indian government. The Army chief, Gen. VK Singh, who undertook a number of reforms within the armed forces, was asked to resign this month by the defence minister, citing an error in his officially reported date of birth. The opposition claims that the government terminated Gen. Singh’s service since he was opposed to the corruption in the Armed Forces. A loyalist of the ruling Indian National Congress party, Lt Gen. Bikram Singh will take over the leadership from Gen. VK Singh on June 1, 2012.