With the government clearing emergency purchases for armed forces in view of the escalating India-China border situation, the question arises, if the Indian Air Force (IAF) is prepared for war, as claimed by the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) recently, why would an emergent purchase be resorted to?
The government recently empowered the forces to go ahead with the proposals for emergency purchases, as required, to prepare for any situation arising from the recent border conflict which resulted in the death of at least 20 Indian Army soldiers.
Why the Need For Emergency Purchases?
The government, a few years earlier, had also cleared the forces to maintain a stockpile of requirements for an intense 10 day war, generally called the 10i requirements. If these requirements were met, why would a sudden scurry for weapons and armaments be required now?
No nation, no matter how large its spending on war preparedness is, can never hoard all weapons and armaments in one go. This would result in the life depletion of stock in a short period of time, coupled with chances of obsolescence.
It is always a good idea to buy your stocks in batches. Weapons, after all, are always on sale as long as there is money in the pocket.
This procedure also keeps your spendings spread over a time period giving the economy a chance at revival, and your own industries an opportunity at development of the desired product.
What Would The IAF Buy?
Typically these emergency purchases are done from the revenue budget of the service under the special procurement powers of the Vice Chiefs’ who decide what is the current requirement to fight the impending war.
The IAF would, in most probability, go in for arms and ammunition to boost its stock.
Missiles, bombs, rockets, strap on guidance kits for ‘dumb’ iron bombs to convert them into ‘smart’ bombs and a plethora of other smaller items, mostly of consumable nature. The bigger purchases of weapon platforms and machinery would, in most certainty, be left out of this shopping cart. The proposed additional Su-30s and the MiG 29s would certainly not be through this code head, though the purchases are concurrent.
The Probable IAF Shopping Cart
If the shopping cart is being populated envisaging a conflict with China, then for sure one of the items in it would be bombs. Indigenous technology in producing bombs has grown, however, it is yet to suffice for a warlike situation.
Bombs varying from 100 to 500 kgs would definitely find a place depending on the present quantity available; these would, in all probability, be augmented with Spanish HSLD (High Speed Low Drag) bombs. Imagine the destruction caused by a single Su-30 raining 28 of the 250 kg class in one pass; also imagine the replenishment rate of these bombs each day per base.
All these bombs are in the ‘dumb’ category; in effect, they follow the normal trajectory after release and cannot be guided, add a guidance kit to these and voila you have a guided weapon with enhanced accuracy. These kits may be, the in-house ‘Sudarshan’ or the imported ‘Paveway’ or ‘Griffin’.
Most Indian fighters are compatible with these bombs and may or may not require a designator pod like the Israeli ‘Litening’.
Speaking of ‘smart’ bombs, the famed Crystal Maze and the Spice would definitely find a place in further orders. These would probably be boosted with the Russian origin KAB series of penetration weapons, which would give the Indian fighters targeting supply routes and bridges, a fair amount of advantage. This category, though called a guided bomb, technically falls somewhere in between a missile and a bomb, given their hybrid design. Their small circular error of probability, and the devastating penetration capability gives them the edge over conventional bombs with guidance kits.
Air-to-Air Missiles Stock Should Be Boosted
To keep the PLAAF intruders at a safe distance from the Indian installations, the present stock of air-to-air missiles would need to be boosted. These would be on order depending upon the type. Whilst the Mirage 2000 and its upgraded brother, the TE, use mostly the Magic and MICA class of missiles, the Russian platforms on the other hand carry the RVV AE, R 77 and the R 27 ER/ET class of missiles.
It is envisaged that some of these ordinances would definitely find their place in the Indian shopping cart.
The indigenously developed ‘Astra’ is yet to fructify, and if done in time and integrated, would reduce some load from this category of imports.
Amongst the other purchases envisaged would be anti-shipping missiles and the anti-radiation missiles for the Su-30s, to be used against ships and radars respectively.
The IAF Must Think Out of The Box to Have An Edge
The Maritime-role Jaguars carry the harpoons, a fair amount of which we have in adequate quantity, and can be boosted with stocks from the Navy if required. The Jaguar land attack cart is expectedly to be smaller, the American Sensor Fused Weapon has already been procured and is unlikely any further quantities would be released for India. These are anti-armour smart bombs to be used over the enemy armour concentrations. Other weapons for the Jaguar are common, and have already been factored in the earlier paragraphs.
In addition to these, the wish list of the IAF would also include the armament for aircraft front guns and some unguided rockets.
Another area that the IAF would do good to push, is to complete its ongoing upgradations and integration of systems on aircraft; the faster these are done the more effective the systems would be.
During the Kargil conflict, similar integration was done overnight with certain systems, like the fitment of GPS on board the MiG 23/27 and tinkering the Mirage 2000 onboard computer to deliver certain bombs that had never been carried by it earlier. Out of the box thinking like this would definitely give the IAF an edge over its adversary.
(Amit Ranjan Giri is a Wing Commander (Retd) of the Indian Air Force. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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