Last month, India announced plans to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets from France, though a final deal has yet to be signed. In an email interview, Iskander Rehman, a nonresident fellow in the South Asia Program at the Atlantic Council, discussed India’s air force.
WPR: What are the current size, capabilities and combat readiness of the Indian air force?
Iskander Rehman: On paper, the Indian air force is a large, well-balanced and modern service, whose fighter pilots are considered to be some of the most-capable and well-trained in the world. Recently, however, concerns have grown over the air force’s continued ability to successfully achieve its core missions given its aging fleet, servicing issues, difficulties acquiring spare parts and procurement delays. This is true not only with regard to the much-discussed medium multi-role combat aircraft program, for which the French Rafale was chosen, but also the indigenously designed Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Tejas light combat aircraft, which has been riddled with development issues.