According to a long-term perspective plan, the air force wants to be ready for every contingency that may arise in the neighbourhood.
The plan envisages the IAF's transformation into a potent and networked aerospace power through three aspects.
First, induction and integration of new technology weapon platforms and upgradation of the existing inventory. Second, induction and training of manpower to handle this new inventory while retaining core competency in maintaining the existing ones. And, finally, the revision of concepts and doctrines.
The upgradation of the existing weapon platforms, where viable, will be undertaken to keep abreast with the advancement in technologies. All these platforms are being integrated through Air Force Network, to attain net-centric capabilities in order to conduct effect based operations.
After a careful analysis, the Air Force has drawn up a plan to induct brand new 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft, upgrades of several existing fighter and transport aircraft, purchase of new air defence systems, radars and air-borne early warning systems.
Top sources told rediff.com that over the next nine to 10 years, the Air Force shopping list includes:
126new medium combat jets.
Over 200 5th generation fighters co-developed with Russia.
At least two additional AWACS.
10-15 C-17 heavy lift transport aircraft.
140 medium lift helicopters.
22 attack helicopters.
In the aspect of air defence too, India has big acquisition plans. Apart from ordering eight Akaash missiles indigenously developed by the Defence Research And Development Organisation, the Air Force is planning to induct 18 firing units of MRSAM (medium range surface to air missiles) and 49 SR-SAM (short range surface to air missiles), jointly developed with Israel.
Not surprisingly, in the last three financial years the IAF has been allocated more money for capital acquisition than the other two services and is likely to get more funds than the Army and the Navy in the next few years.
Acquiring the hardware is, of course, one aspect. The Air Force is now looking to recruit highly qualified technical manpower both in the officer cadre as well as in other ranks so that all the latest state-of-the-art equipment can be utilised optimally.