The IAF is staring at a critical shortage of fighter jets by the end of the 2020s, which will not only hamper its operational capabilities, but also leave it vulnerable against two hostile neighbours.
Last week was the fourth anniversary of the Balakot episode, which would be more popularly remembered for the impressively moustached Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and his fearless antics in Pakistani captivity than the missile threats it generated. The date went past mostly unnoticed, though it would have been a good opportunity to honestly appraise the Indian Air Force’s performance during that episode. From damaging the seminary at Balakot to shooting down its own helicopter and losing a fighter jet in an aerial clash that resulted in a pilot in Pakistani captivity, the list of unanswered questions runs long.
If there was a serious discussion about the IAF, the spotlight would have moved to the equally critical subject of the shortfall in its combat capabilities. As is well known, the IAF is authorized 42 squadrons of fighter jets—even though Sushant Singh
Sushant Singh is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. He has taught at Yale University (Fall 2019 and Fall 2021) and was deputy editor of The Indian Express. A winner of the prestigious Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards in 2017 and 2018, he had earlier served in the Indian Army for two decades. He is also the author of Mission Overseas and co-author of Note by Note: The India Story.