For the tri-services, fighting a war is essentially about integrating the assets of one service gainfully into the operations of another to further the overall war aims. Historically, smart-thinking commanders in the IAF have not shied away from exploiting the capabilities existing in the Army and Navy to augment their own air campaigns and plans. The integration of the Navy, and the civil and Army radars into the IAF’s air defence order of battle (ORBAT) has been one such example in the past.
Naval maritime commandos (MARCOS) or the Army special forces could thus find employability within the IAF’s counter-air, counter-terror or suppression of enemy air defence (SEAD) campaigns. The induction of the Indian Navy’s Poseidon P8-I in Ladakh is, therefore, something to be lauded. Its inverted synthetic aperture radar capabilities (high resolution of the order of one metre) would definitely enable a joint surveillance target attack radar system (JSTARS) kind of exploitation of the P-8, as was apparently achieved during the Doklam standoff.
But the decision to deploy the MiG-29Ks in the sector, if media reports are to be believed, is perplexing indeed. Now, the integration of assets does not mean throwing everything you have at the enemy, even if operational viability is suspect. The MiG-29K is essentially meant for carrier-borne air defence or limited maritime and ground attack roles.