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Manoj Tandon

Rafale – A soldier’s perspective

Rafale deal

04:00 hours – Somewhere on India-China Border……Wing Commander W gets a message to scramble; Chinese multi-role attack aircraft were spotted intruding into Indian air-space….

 He immediately takes off with his wingman in his old warhorse Mig 21 knowing fully well that his aircraft with old technology was no match for the latest state of the art Chinese attack planes but then duty is duty and Indian Air Force never waivers when duty calls….

 Soon they had the Chinese formation in their visual range….Wing Commander engages the Chinese plane, due to superior air mobility; soon the Chinese plane is at his 6’O clock. His wingman shouts….Sir, Bandit at 6’O clock….wing commander goes into a sharp G turn….but it’s too late and too little, with missile lock in place the Chinese fighter releases its missile, W goes into a sharp G turn to avoid the missile, his Mig 21 shudders but slowly starts to turn…..W realises in his desperation that this plane has been flying since 1970s (since  40 odd years) and he is up against a plane with the latest technology. But then he is a typical Indian Armed Forces brave soldier…..how can he accept defeat….

 He watches in horror, as the missile comes at his plane with a loud whine….it’s like death approaching…..a loud bang……fragments exploding all around…..and then…..complete silence…..

 48 hours later….a beautiful ceremony, in full Armed Forces tradition, is going on…..W’s body is being cremated with full military honours…

Don’t worry I am not doing storytelling, I am just telling you the future….

While our politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, friends, social media friends (yes, this is a new category in this digital age), family members….are all busy jabbering at/with each other NO ONE and I repeat NO ONE is bothered about the implications of this waste of time.

And why should we, we are sitting in our cosy heated or AC’d drawing rooms, a nice cup of tea in our hands, enjoying the kebabs…..how does it matter if a highly trained, dedicated, committed fighter pilot of Indian Air Force loses his life, his wife becomes a widow, his kids orphans…..

Let me help you smell the salt:

The Current Situation

The Indian Air Force has an effective strength of 31 combat squadrons, although it has 34 combat squadrons in total. These include

  • 11 squadrons of the Su-30MKI
  • 3 each of the MiG-29 and Mirage 2000 (currently undergoing an upgrade)
  • 6 of the Jaguar (at the initial stage of an upgrade process) and
  • 6 of the MiG-21Bison.
  • In addition, two upgraded MiG-27 squadrons serve with the Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment (TACDE).
  • It is believed that 3 squadrons continue to operate older MiG-21s and non-upgraded MiG-27s they are in the process of being phased out.

The Challenge

The IAF desires strength of some 42 combat squadrons by the period 2027-32 in order to meet the contingencies of a two-front war.

Assuming a current practical strength of 31 squadrons, there is an immediate requirement for 11 more to meet its desired force levels by 2027. However, 6 more squadrons of MiG-21Bison and the 2 MiG-27 will be phased out by 2025.

This leaves a short fall of anything between 13 to 17 squadrons out of the total desired number of 42 squadrons….

i.e. IAF will be operating at 30 % less fighting capability then it requires to be an effective fighting force…….and this will happen in less than a decade

Hope I have shaken you up a bit, hope some of you have now realised that we are carrying a time bomb, hope some of you have realised that there is a need for vigorous action rather than debates….

Else, our brave soldiers, our brave military personnel will keep giving their lives, more families will lose their sons, husbands, fathers…..while we while away our time in meaningless discussions…..

Wing Commander W’s wife, grief stricken, is sitting in the lobby of her house, …hoping to somehow trying to normalise life in her home….she switches on the TV…..a debate is going on…..in Lok Sabha

 My deal was better than yours, No No mine is better…..you are corrupt, no no your party is corrupt….

 She changes the channel, a TV anchor is shouting, the panellists are trying to talk over each other…..no you don’t understand….Rafale is this, Rafale is that…..

 She wants to scream…..NONE of you even know what a plane is, what Air Force is, what a fighter plane is, you all know NOTHING but discuss as if you THE expert……

 And worst still you don’t know how it feels to be sitting in a cockpit with a missile tearing down towards your plane, you know you are going to die because of people, we voted for,  were too busy in scoring points with each other……

 She screams, picks up a paper weight lying on the side table and throws it towards the TV screen….the missile hits the target…….again…..

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