Tuesday, June 15, 2010

‘Do not put all eggs in Russian basket’

Air Vice Marshal (retd) Kapil Kak, Additional Director, Centre for Air Power Studies talks to TSI

How do you see the future of IAF?

We need to retrospect what kind of air force we want. Unless we work on the concept, we won’t grow. India is one of the few countries whose political future is bright. Asia has changed a lot. It is a lot more powerful, thanks to the emergence of India and China.

What is your analysis of the Indian Air Force of today?

If we look at hardware, IAF has huge weakness in terms of numbers of combat platforms and numbers are important. I agree that we have platforms like Su 30 MKI which is a powerful machine. But so do our likely adversaries who are growing and not compromising on technology and numbers. So why should India compromise? The fact that the number of combat squadrons has dropped down from the sanctioned 39.5 to below 30 should worry every Indian. But we have great strength of leadership at multiple levels in terms of our men and officers. The Indian Air Force is not the best paymaster but thanks to its rigorous training and motivation, it has done excellently well. It will get back to 39 but it will take some years. With changing times, air power and maritime power have become crucial for national security. IAF has always favoured an Indian-built aircraft rather than imported ones. IAF is extremely sensitive to genuine indigenous technology. IAF has paid a huge price for delayed replacement of MiG 21. The LCA Tejas was supposed to be inducted by 1995 and today after 15 years we are finally doing it. The Indian Air Force should be linked to the process of energising the aerospace and defence industry. We can have a good mix of Tejas and Fifth generation fighter aircraft. In terms of reach, we have to ensure our interests are safeguarded and our Diaspora is protected.

Do you think the procurement process is timely?

The Parliament Consultative Committees and Parliament Standing Committees have been taking long and our procurements are getting delayed. A national decision is made that we will get the LCA and it takes fifteen years. A decision is made to get multi-role aircraft and it takes years because our decision making process is unprofessionally structured. The Kargil Group of Ministers had recommended that we should have multiple teams of decision making with finance, commercial, technological, defence teams arriving at parallel decisions to save crucial time. One a need is confirmed, why can’t there be one window where all the concerned decision makers are present together? There is no integration which is the biggest problem. We need a fast track process. The decision-making system is archaic. Nowhere in the world, it takes so long.

What is your evaluation about the six contenders for MMRCA contract?

The Air HQ prepares a thorough projection of the capability an aircraft is required to have. It is important to understand that all platforms will meet the requirements. It is a complex question and has an equally complex answer. Once the capability evaluation is done, they are put through stringent tests. There are teams sitting in Air HQ going bonkers since last one and half years and the evaluation is going to be foolproof in technical operational terms. The key point is going to be smooth transfer of the technical knowhow. This is going to clinch the deal.

What is your assessment?

I will like to talk as a strategic thinker and would settle for the company which would like to settle as a technology partner. But I would like to put on record that India should not put all its eggs in one basket. And also, it is not right for India to be dependent on one nation for 60 to 70 per cent of its defence requirements. You know which country I am talking about, it’s Russia. No matter how robust our relations are, it’s not strategically advisable. Technologically, the American aircraft is a true AESA technology platforms, others are derived from it. This programme is very important. We should not see it a contract of 10 billion dollars or in the terms of double engine or single engine power. It’s going to shape future technology. At the end of the day, what do we get? What’s the political gain? If I get your aircraft, what do I gain? May be we will get a better position in Afghanistan, who knows? I don’t know. After all, the policies of many countries have changed with such prospects. So we have to leverage this buying power to our positive gain in other areas.
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Source :
IIPM Editorial, 2009

An IIPM and Professor Arindam Chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist) Initiative

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