Air Commodore (Retd) Jasjit Singh, director, New Delhi-based Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), told DNA: “India now not only faces the possibility of a two-front war but has to also deal with a two-front military modernisation programme with China supplying its latest weaponry to Pakistan.”
He said India faces a 10-year window of vulnerability as the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) present squadron of 34 is way below the sanctioned strength of 39 squadrons. “It will take 10 years for the IAF to get back to its sanctioned strength of 39 squadrons. While Pakistan at present, with 24 squadrons, is raising its strength rapidly with China’s support,” said Singh, who is also the former director of Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis.
Former Vice Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal PK Barbora, however, said China’s offering Pakistan a squadron of the J-10s may not threaten India’s air superiority. “China does not have a great record of producing a world-class aircraft. All they do is reverse engineer and manufacture aircraft. Secondly, by raising just one squadron Pakistan may not benefit much,” he said.
However, Pakistani media reports indicate that it is looking at raising two squadrons of the fourth generation aircraft to counter India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, which is still under development. Besides, according to US military and defence technology news website, Defense Update, the Chinese designed Joint Fighter (JF)-17 (commonly known as ‘Thunder’) is already under production in Pakistan and is actively being promoted for export in the world market.
Despite his optimism, Air Marshal Barbora warned that the slow pace of India’s defence indigenisation (read LCA Tejas, in particular) is a cause for worry. “We will be adding 300 more Su-30 MKIs; getting 126 medium multi role combat aircraft; and upgrading the Mirage 2000s, Jaguars and the MiG-29s. The same cannot be said of some pathetic status of indigenous programmes like the Light Combat Aircraft, which has been delayed for years now,” he says.