With both China and Pakistan bolstering their air combat fleets, IAF is now seeking another 50 Sukhoi-30MKI multi-role “air dominance” fighters to cater for any contingency on both the eastern and western fronts. These 50 new Sukhois will in addition to the 230 of these twin-seater fighters already contracted from Russia in three deals worth upwards of $8.5 billion.
Having inducted 105 of the 230 Sukhois till now, IAF has already begun to base these jets in the North-East in a clear move to counter China’s rapid modernisation of its armed forces. Incidentally, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd has been directed to complete the manufacture of 140 of the 230 Sukhois under transfer of technology by 2015 at all costs.
India’s “dissuasive deterrence” military posture against China, after all, revolves around the Sukhois as well as the 3,500km nuclear-capable Agni-III missile, which will be ready for operational deployment by 2011, and the 5,000km range Agni-V missile in the pipeline.
IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik confirmed to TOI on Thursday that his force was indeed “interested” in acquiring more Sukhois, which will be the mainstay of India’s fighter fleet for the forseeable future, to further enhance its combat potential.
Bombarded by a spate of questions on the military equation vis-a-vis China on day the People’s Liberation Army showcased its staggering military might to mark 60 years of communism, ACM Naik said IAF’s acquisition of combat capabilities was not “country or adversary-specific”. While exuding “confidence” that a repeat of the 1962 conflict was simply “not possible”, the IAF chief said, “We need to develop certain capabilities which are required or will be required in the future in tune with India’s aspirations.”
IAF, after all, needs to project power as well as have “strategic reach” from Hormuz Strait near Persian Gulf right down to Malacca Strait, which India visualises as its primary area of geopolitical interest. In its quest to emerge as a “strategic aerospace force”, IAF has embarked on a major modernisation drive, which ranges from Israeli AWACS and aerostat radars to American C-130J ‘Super Hercules’ aircraft.