India is planning to set up an aerospace command to defend its assets in space and to overcome 21st century threats and challenges, said Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief Air Chief Marshal SP Tiyagi on Monday.
Tiyagi said the government was studying a proposal and consulting experts to set up the command. He stressed that such a command was needed and also foresaw a larger IAF role in the near future. “As the country’s economy grows, we would be short of energy by 2025. We need to protect our strategic boundaries by widening our role from Malacca Straits to Gulf and protect the flow of energy,” he said. However, he added that neighbouring countries should not be alarmed by the aerospace command or the IAF’s strategic role, as it was not directed against them.
The air marshal said the IAF needed to improve its weaponry, air-to-air fuelers and communication network to better cover “strategic boundaries”. He said the force would acquire 126 multi-role aircrafts and produce more Sukhoi aircrafts with Russian collaboration. But, he added that no decision about the nature and type of aircraft to be purchased had been taken yet.
Highlighting the IAF’s role in the counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir, Tiyagi said the force had been limited to providing logistic support. “But only the IAF is capable of changing the status quo existing along the Line of Control (LoC) or on the eastern border with China,” he said, clarifying that it was not possible for the Indian Army to change the status quo alone because of the difficult terrain. He indirectly demanded a role for the IAF in counter-insurgency operations, but said since international complexities would determine whether the “payoff” would be good.
The air marshal said war games with other countries had made cadets more confident about their capabilities. He said his forces had finished their exercises with France and Singapore and would be joining the exercises with US and British air forces.