Air force has strong deployments along LAC, says IAF chief; a look at role of air power in countering Chinese threat

The IAF chief said the force has made 'very strong' deployments in all relevant areas in view of the five-month-long border standoff with China

FP Staff October 06, 2020 13:34:37 IST
Air force has strong deployments along LAC, says IAF chief; a look at role of air power in countering Chinese threat

IAF chief Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria. ANI

Amid the ongoing standoff between Indian and Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control, Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria on Monday made several notable assertions about the capabilities of the force.

These comments assume significance due the approaching winter season, during which the role of the Air Force in Ladakh is especially crucial.

That said, the Air Force bolstered its deployment in Ladakh in May itself, when tensions were first beginning to rise along the LAC. With winter approaching, the Air Force remains on high alert in the forward air bases along the LAC, according to PTI.

IAF chief's comments

On Monday, IAF chief Bhadauria said Chinese air power can't get the better of the capabilities of his force in any conflict scenario in eastern Ladakh, asserting India is "very well positioned" to meet any threat from China.

He said the IAF has made "very strong" deployments in all relevant areas in view of the five-month-long border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh and it is in a firm position to handle any contingency along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The IAF chief said "swift and rapid" deployments were made along the LAC in view of the ground situation, adding Ladakh was  just one of the areas where IAF's assets were stationed. The Times of India quoted him as saying that armed forces have been strongly deployed along the Line of Actual Control till Arunachal Pradesh. "Our further actions will depend on the ground realities," he said.

"Details cannot be divulged. But be rest assured that we have deployed strongly and are firmly in a position to handle any contingency." ACM Bhadauria said.

Air Force's significance along LAC

The IAF presently has both a qualitative and quantitative edge over the Chinese Air Force along the LAC, as noted by an article in The Hindu by retired Air Vice Marshal Arjun Subramaniam. The article states that India's fighter fleet of 4th Generation Aircraft (Su-30 MKIs, Mirage-2000s and MiG-29s) "are superior in almost every respect" to the Chinese Air Force's J-10s, J-11s and SU-30 MKKs.

This superiority is particularly important in terms of gaining an asymmetrical advantage since the capabilities of the armies on both sides are said to be broadly at par.

According to an article in The Indian Express by Air Vice Marshal (retired) Manmohan Bahadur, the Air Force is likely to be used for urgent logistics support to the army during the winter. During winter, some passes in the region are closed, due to which land transportation is not possible.

A separate article in the newspaper quoted Air Vice Marshal KK Nowhar (retd), of the Centre for Air Power Studies, as saying that utilisation of air power in direct support of the Army along the LAC in areas such as the Galwan Valley has never been contemplated. “But it is feasible. We will definitely be asked if the chips are down,” he is reported to have said.

Deployment

The Indian Air Force has two main bases in the Ladakh Union Territory, including the Leh and Thoise airbases. While fighter jets are not deployed permanently here, detachments from combat aircraft squadrons are operational throughout the year, according to ANI.

In May 2020, the IAF rushed its fighter jet patrols in Ladakh after Chinese military choppers were found to be flying close to the Line of Actual Control. This incident had occurred around the same time the PLA troops and Indian Army forces came to blows in the upper reaches of North Sikkim.

As of now, the IAF has deployed almost all its frontline fighter jets like Sukhoi 30 MKI, Jaguar and Mirage 2000 aircraft in the key frontier air bases in eastern Ladakh and elsewhere along the Line of Actual Control, as per a PTI report.

The newly inducted fleet of five Rafale jets has also been carrying out sorties in eastern Ladakh.

The IAF has also been carrying out night time combat air patrols over the eastern Ladakh region in an apparent message to China that it was ready to deal with any eventuality in the mountainous region.

On 29 September, IAF chief Bhadauria also made a reference to the raising of two squadrons of light combat aircraft Tejas and integration of some indigenous weapons on the Su-30 MKI combat jets in a very reduced time frame. The IAF chief said there have been the "most promising" developments, reflecting the country's capabilities to develop indigenous military hardware.

With inputs from agencies

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