IAF to focus on bombs & air-to-air missiles for edge over Pakistan

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is looking at regaining its edge over its Pakistani counterpart in air-to-air missile capabilities that was “allowed to slip” amid a “struggle” to acquire them in a process that has lasted 15 years, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhaduria said Friday.

In a frank conversation on the takeaways from the Balakot air strike and the subsequent dogfight on 27 February 2019, the IAF chief said the force is not just depending on the Rafale aircraft and its weapons to regain the edge but also on other missiles, including indigenous ones.

He was speaking at a seminar organised by the Centre for Air Power Studies.

When Pakistan launched Operation Swift Retort, their F16s were armed with the Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile — AMRAAM — which has higher capability than that of the R-77 used by the Su 30 MKI and the MICA used by the Mirages.

This meant that while Pakistan could hit Indian aircraft in air from BVR, the Sukhois and the Mirages could not.

Rafale to tilt scale in India’s favour

The 36 Rafale fighters that India will operate come with state-of-the-art radars and unmatched BVR capabilities. They will also be armed with the Meteor air-to-air missiles that have a range of 150 km. This means that a Rafale can take out an enemy aircraft 150 km away, in effect without even crossing Indian airspace.

At present, neither Pakistan nor India have missiles to counter the Meteor, which tilts the scale in India’s favour.

“We had the edge over the Pakistan Air Force in terms of Beyond Visual Range Missile capability at the time of Kargil. We allowed that to slip and thereafter it took a decade-and-a-half of struggle with the acquisition process to be able to get better capability,” Bhaduria said.

He added that the BVR capability will soon materialise with the induction of the Rafale. The first four Rafales will land in India in May.

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