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Why India's military needs an urgent update

By Pramod Kumar Buravalli
February 09, 2010 17:58 IST
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A strong military cannot be maintained with discipline alone. Today, a strong military means state of the art equipment, steady supply of munitions and morale and most importantly reconnaissance, research and 2nd/3rd strike capabilities, writes Pramod Kumar Buravalli.

When I heard the Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik admitting last year that India lacks the air power to meet the myriad terror threats facing the country, I didn't blame him. He was and is still right.

When you have identified adversaries in all geographical directions and just 29 operational squadrons in your air force, how can you claim to be a strong and sovereign nation?

Can you protect all of your borders let alone airspace, cities and strategic installations?  Can you even contemplate using the air force to launch a counter strike and a 2nd strike?

These questions have to be constantly asked and answers sought from the Indian leadership.

Today, India's only deterrence lies in the (under-development) INS Arihant and the (over-tested) AGNI missile. For a country and civilization that boasts of the Vimanika Shastra, Chandrayaan missions and numerous wise and dedicated missile men, having so few strike options is indigestible.

Advisors, researchers and strategists have all lamented the lack of military industrial complexes in India. When you are a country of 1.2 billion and aspiring to be at the high table of world powers, the least you can do is to produce atleast half of your military equipment indigenously.

(As always) after my initial round of critiquing, I am unable to stop myself from recommending the following long term steps for the Indian Air Force (since the Indian Navy and Army seem to have taken the lead in the race to stay ahead of our adversaries):

Stop buying old junk from world markets: The aircraft that are being offered to the IAF today by outside countries are older technologies. Only the Su-30/35, Tu-Blackjack, F-22/35, B-1/2 type aircraft can be worthy of procurement and that too under transparent technology transfer agreements.

Start announcing competitive aircraft designing contracts to Indian private sector companies that can (just like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Pratt & Whitney in the USA) come up with competing designs which can later be jointly developed into long serving aircrafts by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and the winning bidder. The Tatas, Mahindras, L&Ts all have the expertise and financial muscle to become the next Boeing or Lockheed.

Create an aerospace military research organisation that focuses exclusively on research, design, development and testing for military uses of aerospace.

For the short term:

Pour more finances and manpower into developing unmanned combat aerial vehicles: India should continue joint initiatives with Russians, Americans and Israelis plus simultaneously develop its own indigenous public and private development initiatives. ADE is already working overtime to develop three new UAV variants. India needs at least 20 squadrons (360 aircraft).

Research and Development with Russia: The fifth generation Indo-Russian (PAK FA) fighter aircraft will be ready for induction by 2017-2020. At least 15 squadrons of these fighters will be required to replace MiG 29's and Mirages by 2025. 

Procuring atleast 200 more Sukhoi-30MKI fighter bombers: IAF needs to maintain atleast 500 Sukhois to maintain air supremacy.

Investing more resources into Light Combat Aircraft/Medium Combat Aircraft: IAF is all set to order 2-3 squadrons from HAL over the next few years. However, more time needs to be spent in making the MCA a success rather than just looking at the LCA.

MRCA (MIG 21/27) Replacement: Via a Global RFP (request for proposal), the IAF is set to acquire 180 fighters from 2012 onwards to replace MiG-21s/27s and the competition is between Rafale, Grippen, F-16, F/A-18E/F and MiG-35.

History shows that the Indians use any technology platform for over 30-40 years and unless the IAF gets the go ahead to purchase the JSF or the F-22, there is no point in getting older technologies from any of the competing bidders.

Missiles: Agni V, Brahmos, Akash and Trishul may be sufficient for now but a new range of undetectable stealth missiles have to be developed for the IAF and navy by the DRDO. These new generations of missiles have to have tactical, surgical and strategic strike capabilities.


The Indian military and political leadership has to keep in mind two simple things.

Diversity and democracy are tough to maintain. If India wants to be the flag bearer of these two principles in the eastern hemisphere, it has to maintain an independent and strong military.

A strong military cannot be maintained with discipline alone. Today, a strong military means state of the art equipment, steady supply of munitions and morale and most importantly reconnaissance, research and 2nd/3rd strike capabilities.

To counter a giant like China which is constantly trying to find a chink in our armour, we need to revisit Sun Tzu's Art of War and an interesting quote I found invaluable: 

"If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him.

If he is in superior strength, evade him.

If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him.

Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.

If he is taking his ease, give him no rest.

If his forces are united, separate them.

If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them.

Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected".

I hope the Indian leaders are listening.

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