Interview with P.V Naik

Discussion in 'Indian Air Force' started by utubekhiladi, Jun 17, 2011.

  1. utubekhiladi

    utubekhiladi The Preacher Elite Member

    Dec 3, 2010
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    TX, USA

    Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik took over as CAS in May 2009, and after having spent a major part of his career tackling challenges facing the IAF, will retire on July 31 this year. During an interaction with Air Marshal (Retd) V.K. Bhatia, Editor, SP’s Aviation, the veteran fighter pilot spoke about various measures undertaken to build the necessary capabilities within the service. Read through the first part of the interview.


    SP’s Aviation (SP’s): Having spent a major portion of your tenure at the helm of one of the largest and battletested air forces in the world, how have you tackled the major challenges facing the Indian Air Force (IAF)?

    Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik (CAS): The first major challenge was to add impetus to the transformation process, which was conceived keeping in tune with our doctrines and thought processes. At the macro level, this involves revamp of our strategies in order to maintain their relevance in the future scheme of matters. At the field level, we are focusing upon developing better employment tactics and training our personnel to operate these state-of-the-art technologies. We are also developing new infrastructure and upgrading the existing ones to operationalise the forthcoming assets right from the word go. Greater emphasis is being laid on interlacing our existing assets into the overall plan as our legacy systems will continue to be used in tandem with the newer ones for some more time in the future. In a nutshell, I would say that the IAF is passing through a crucial phase in its evolution. Induction of new weapon platforms, their integration into our plans, training of our personnel, upgrading our infrastructure, improvement in the service conditions and welfare of our personnel have remained my top priorities. I am glad that I had an excellent team to work with and have been able to achieve major milestones that we had set.

    SP’s: In previous interviews you had agreed with the general premise that the IAF is in the midst of a metamorphic transformation. Could you elaborate on the change that is taking place, especially with regard to its ideology, doctrine, concepts, etc?

    CAS: Defence forces, by nature of the job profile need to evolve continuously. Any doctrinal or professional inertia is suicidal and we cannot afford that. The evolution process spans the entire gamut of our existence. Revision of doctrines and strategies, required force structure, associated infrastructure development and training are aspects that need constant attention. The IAF’s transformation to a potent and networked aerospace power basically hinges on three aspects. First, induction and integration of new technology weapon platforms and upgradation of the existing inventory. Second, induction and training of manpower to handle this new inventory while retaining our core competency in maintaining the existing ones and finally, the revision of concepts and doctrines. The upgradation of the existing weapon platforms, where viable, is undertaken to keep abreast with the advancement in technologies. All these platforms are being integrated through Air Force Network (AFNET), to attain net-centric capabilities in order to conduct effect based operations. Aspects related to human resource management are being planned through composite assessment of manpower. The training patterns have been upgraded keeping in view the envisaged requirements of the future.

    SP’s: Could you share the key ingredients of the latest revised doctrine of the IAF? How will these affect the IAF’s war-waging and war-winning capabilities?

    CAS: The Indian Air Force doctrine is the essence of our understanding of aerospace power. It portrays our perspective of employing aerospace power to meet our national security objectives. We have undergone a radical change in our thought process which is amply manifested through our doctrine. Our present focus is to transform into a ‘capability-based force’ rather than being ‘adversary-centric’. Accordingly, the modernisation programme is being progressed to acquire capabilities that would enable us to undertake multi-front and/or multi-dimensional challenges. Just to give you an overview, the IAF’s doctrine has two parts—‘basic’ and ‘operational’. Part I of the doctrine is a guide on the basic aspects of aerospace power with inputs from old precepts and their subsequent evolution including amalgamation of space and its enormous force-enhancing impact. Part II covers the operational aspects of the employment of aerospace power. The doctrine is practised right down to the field level. Overall, evolution of any doctrine is a continuous process and same is the case for IAF which too would continue to evolve to suit future requirements.

    SP’s: During your tenure, you have on many occasions iterated that the IAF needs to be fully equipped and trained to fight across the entire spectrum of modern-day warfare. Could you describe the measures being undertaken to build the necessary capabilities within the service?

    CAS: In this ever evolving global security scenario, one cannot accurately predict the kind of war we may have to fight in the future. As you can see, there has been a noticeable shift in the security scenario, both internal and external, with sub-conventional or asymmetric circumstances rising in prominence. Notwithstanding any external conventional threats that may arise, and for which we are adequately prepared, today we may have to employ high-end systems even at the lower end of the conflict spectrum. The armed forces, therefore, have to be ready to fight across the entire spectrum of modern-day conflict. This aspect becomes even more relevant as aerospace power is the preferred instrument of choice. To cater to the entire spectrum of conflict, the IAF has an all-round modernisation plan which caters to combat aircraft, transport aircraft, helicopters, weapon systems, AD systems, unmanned aerial vehicles; space enabled and network-centric capabilities, etc. Specific strategies are also being formulated and practised to counter the perceived threat scenarios.

    SP’s: What efforts are being made by the IAF to not only arrest the declining combat squadrons’ strength but to restore/enhance it in the coming years?

    CAS: Obsolescence is a phenomenon that air forces around the world confront on a regular basis due to the rapid advances in aviation-related technologies and their rapid obsolescence. We are currently at the cusp of our capabilities as some of our fleets are facing obsolescence. Procurement of assets like Su-30MKI, light combat aircraft, medium multi-role combat aircraft and fifth generation fighter aircraft are in the pipeline to enhance our combat potential. Some of our assets are being upgraded to make these contemporary, as far as the capabilities are concerned. Our focus also is to preserve and maintain our existing assets and this is being achieved with a well-conceived product and maintenance support plan. The modernisation programme of IAF is progressing well and IAF would continue to evolve as a modern, strategic aerospace power.

    SP’s: Could you give the latest update on the indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas development/acquisition programme? Does the IAF feel satisfied with the performance of the initial operational clearance (IOC)/ full operational capability (FOC) of Tejas Mk I? What are the shortcomings in operational capabilities that the IAF has had to contend with and how are these proposed to be overcome in the Mk II version?

    CAS: As of now, we have seven LCA aircraft and these are being put through their final paces, before induction into the IAF this year. We are expecting two more limited series production aircraft to join the fleet by the third quarter this year. The LCA, in its present form, is a fourth generation aircraft and we are working with HAL to enhance its capabilities. I am hopeful that the aircraft, in its final operational clearance configuration, will be a much more potent platform, to be a ‘fourth generation plus’. We have had certain problems with the thrust-to-weight ratio and have contracted for a higher thrust engine for the LCA Mark II to obviate this problem. Some design improvements have also been planned to address the shortfalls in performance as compared to LCA Mark I aircraft.

    SP’s: What is the latest on the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) programme and would your earlier assertion of the contract being signed before September this year likely to come true? When is the first MMRCA squadron likely to be inducted into the IAF? What are the chances of an upward revision for acquiring up to 200 aircraft under the MMRCA programme?

    CAS: The Eurofighter Typhoon and the Rafale have been shortlisted. I am hopeful that the remaining processes will also happen as per our timelines. If there are no glitches, then the contract should get inked early. We expect to induct the first MMRCA squadron into the IAF three years from the date of signing of contract. The option clause for procurement of additional MMRCA exists in the request for proposal (RFP), and a decision on this issue would be exercised by IAF subsequently.

    SP’s: Just like its combat aircraft fleets, the IAF appears to be in the midst of a crisis in terms of its obsolescent air defence weapons and support systems. What efforts are being made to correct the situation? When the indigenous Akash and the Israeli Spyder AD weapon systems are likely to be inducted to build up the requisite capabilities in this field?

    CAS: The current surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems with the IAF may not be the latest, but are still very capable of thwarting challenges posed through the medium of air and space. We have started the process of replacing the surfaceto-air guided weapons with modern, state-of-the art SAM systems. The ageing Pechora fleet will be replaced by the new generation medium range (MR)-SAM system and OSAAK System will be replaced by short-range (SR)-SAM system, which is a new generation low level quick reaction missile system being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as a joint venture. In the interim, Spyder low-level quick reaction missile systems are being acquired to plug gaps in our low level air defence network. Spyder SAM System will be operationalised next year. The indigenous, state-of-the art Akash SAM system will be inducted this year. It is an ongoing process and by 2022, the entire air defence (AD) cover will have new generation SAM weapon systems.

    SP’s: How is the IAF looking at the problem of replacing a large number of obsolescent ground-based radars to revamp its AD system? Also, what are the various types of radars likely to be inducted to give the IAF ‘full-spectrum’ radar surveillance capabilities?

    CAS: Some of the radars on our inventory are reaching the end of their useful life and we plan to reinforce our AD cover with the induction of new radars and sensors. The induction of medium power radars has already commenced in March this year. These radars are expected to be operational by December 2012. IAF is also replacing the existing P-18, ST-68, Indra-I and Indra-II radars with indigenously developed Rohini radars. Some Rohini radars have already been inducted and are operational. All radars will be operational by 2014-15. Apart from these, we would be inducting multi-purpose rifle sight (MPRS), low level transportable radars (LLTRs) and low level light weight radars (LLLWRs). The total percentage of legacy sensors in IAF hence would come down below 20 per cent by 2014-15. Plans are also afoot to set up a centralised command and control system by integrating these sensors through Integrated Air Command and Control Systems (IACCS). The recognised air situation picture (RASP) i.e. fused air picture of all military and civil sensors across the country will be available at designated places to control air operations. The inductions in the form of aerostats, airborne warning and control system (AWACS), airborne early warning and control system (AEW&C), LLLWRs and mountain radars is expected to provide seamless coverage irrespective of the terrain, over the entire country. This would greatly enhance our responses by way of reduction in the sensor-to-shooter loop.

    SP’s: Has the IAF received all the AWACS platforms initially contracted for? Has the AWACS been fully integrated into the IAF’s operational environment and has it performed according to expectations? How has it changed IAF’s operational thinking vis-à-vis fighting tomorrow’s air wars? Are there plans to acquire more such or similar force-multipliers? Please elucidate.

    CAS: We have received and are operating all the three AWACS and they are in the process of extensive operational employment and evaluation. The systems are working exceptionally well and to our satisfaction. Our operators are fully trained to exploit these advanced state-of-the-art systems. AWACS have expanded our information sharing loop and situational awareness, and it is now possible for us to prosecute our operations in a more effective manner. We also plan to acquire three AEW&C Systems from DRDO in the near future. In the long run, there are definite plans to procure additional AWACS.

    SP’s: The use of armed remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs) in the global war on terror (GWOT) has become more of a norm than exception. Does the IAF, which pioneered the acquisition and operational exploitation of the RPAs in the Indian context, have any plans to acquire similar capability? Could you throw some light on the DRDO autonomous unmanned research aircraft (AURA) being reportedly developed for the IAF which is stated to have the ability to carry weapons internally?

    CAS: We are currently operating only unarmed RPAs though armed RPAs will come later in our context. The IAF has been a key partner with the DRDO and we have been encouraging indigenous design and development programme associated with the RPAs. AURA is currently under initial planning stages only and it would be premature to comment on its operational capability or payload capacity.

    SP’s: The IAF had reportedly benefited a great deal in the recent past by participating in a large number of international air exercises including the ‘Red Flag’, etc. However, of late, there appears to be a lull in such activities. Could you explain the reason for the ‘draw down’ and what policy the IAF is going to adopt in this regard?

    CAS: Bilateral or multilateral exercises are mutually beneficial for all participants and not just the IAF. It will not be completely accurate to say that there is a lull in our participation in international engagements. We had joint exercises with France and UK last year and would be exercising with Oman this year. Our yearly engagement with Singapore continues, in addition to the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) participation in the GARUDA 2010 at France making it the first trilateral version of the exercise. Red Flag and Cope India with USA, Anatolian Eagle with Turkey and other exercises with friendly countries are all on the anvil. Having said that, it would be pertinent to add that bilateral exercises are limited by scope and thus lessons learnt are at the operational level. IAF is on its way towards upgrading its training facilities, like instrumented ranges, ACMI, etc and this would facilitate improvement in the scope and objectives of future exercises.

    ‘Our focus is to transform into a capability-based force rather than being adversary-centric’ - SP's Aviation

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