India Set to Take Delivery of S-400 Order by December As China Plants Air Force At LAC: IAF Chief

© AP PhotoMilitary vehicles and equipment, parts of the S-400 air defense systems, are unloaded from a Russian transport aircraft, at Murted military airport in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, July 12, 2019
Military vehicles and equipment, parts of the S-400 air defense systems, are unloaded from a Russian transport aircraft, at Murted military airport in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, July 12, 2019 - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.10.2021
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The Indian Air Force (IAF) at present has 30 fighter squadrons against an authorised strength of 42 to fend off a perceived threat from China and Pakistan. Since June last year, the force has had to shift its asset deployment strategy after tensions with China flared up during the Galwan face-off.
Head of the IAF, Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari, said on Tuesday that forces are fully prepared to deal with "any security challenge in eastern Ladakh".
Chaudhari emphasised that the new infrastructure resulting from movements made by the Air Force of the People's Liberation Army across Line of Actual Control (LAC) would not affect India's combat readiness. He also repeated that the plan to take possession of the Russian S-400 air missile and defence system is on schedule.
"The S-400 should be inducted this year," Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said while addressing the media on the 89th anniversary of the IAF.
India signed a $5.43 billion deal with Russia in 2018 to receive five regiments of air missile defence systems by 2023.
China has reportedly deployed the Russian S-400 missile defence systems in the Nyingchi airbase, 20km from the eastern sector of loosely demarcated LAC.
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Chaudhari also made it clear that it would be wrong to assume that having the S-400 air defence system would mean that the force could cut back its acute need of fighters, "since offensive and defensive capability cannot be compared."
The shortage of fighter jets will be a problem for the IAF longer than expected as Chaudhari admitted the new orders would not reach 42 squadrons in even a decade.

"It is difficult to say when the IAF will acquire 42 fighter squadrons; I don't see it come in the next 10-15 years...We will remain around 35 squadrons"

Vivek Ram Chaudhari, Indian Air Force  - Sputnik International
Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari
Indian Air Force Chief
The IAF faces a shortage of 12 squadrons (16 to 18 jets in each) - as recommended by a parliamentary standing committee on defence - to counter purported threats posed by China and Pakistan.
The IAF chief said the force is considering buying 114 fighter jets but he clarified that the French Rafale is not the preferred supplier despite what has been reported in certain sections of the media in the past.
He underlined that the induction of Rafale fighter jet and Apache helicopter has greatly improved the force's combat capabilities.
The IAF is planning new inductions over the next few years for some 300 jets, including deliveries of the indigenously developed Tejas Mark 1A, but at the same time several squadrons of MiG21, MiG29 and Jaguars will be phased out.
India made the second squadron of Rafale combat aircraft operational this July in Hasimara airbase, located strategically near the border with China.
India and China fought a violent face-off in Galwan River Valley in June 2020, in which 20 Indian soldiers and four PLA troops were killed. The border tensions escalated into a face-off over border infrastructure. The two sides accused each other of encroaching upon lands in the eastern Ladakh.
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