New Delhi: Raising concern over the rapid pace of modernisation in the neighbouring countries, Indian Air Force Chief BS Dhanoa Sunday said that though the induction of new equipment by the neighbours was something to worry about but the IAF was capable of protecting the national interests. The IAF Chief said that it is treading with caution and is active towards the threats emanating in the Indo-Pacific region and were in fact prepared to deal with any sort of challenges.

The Air Chief Marshal said, “The IAF is well equipped to take on threats which occur from across the border, be it in the realm of sub-conventional or other domains.” Adding that the IAF was prepared 24*7 in the face of any adversity, Dhanoa said that it will give a befitting response to any eventuality with the assets present with them. He further said that the current challenges rise from unresolved territorial issues, sponsored non-state actors and transnational actors who act against national interests through the global commons.

“To achieve this, the IAF is looking at new inductions and midlife upgrades. Towards this, MiG-29, Jaguar and Mirage-2000 aircraft are being upgraded in a phased manner in order to equip them with contemporary capabilities,” he said. He also mentioned the planned induction of 83 Tejas light combat aircraft and 36 Rafale jets. “Further, a case for 114 fighter aircraft is being processed under the Strategic Partnership model of DPP (Defence Procurement Procedure)-16. Other options are also being explored to build up to authorised strength at the earliest,” Dhanoa added.

Though he did not name either China or Pakistan for the developments being brought about by them, Dhanoa asserted that the IAF is well equipped to take on challenges across the entire range of threats that could emanate across the borders. “While there is a cause for concern as regards to the rate of modernisation and induction of new equipment in our neighbourhood, the IAF is nevertheless, moving ahead with appropriate measures to cater to these new developments,” he said.

The IAF has a total of 32 squadrons of fighter jets much below the authorised strength of 42 squadrons. With the IAF facing a shortage of fighter squadrons, the chief maintained that augmenting the fighter squadron is his top priority.