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How the IAF plans to get the edge back from Pakistan on air-to-air strike capability

During the aerial duel between India and Pakistan on 27 February last year, the IAF had felt the chinks in its air-to-air armour with the Pakistanis having had the edge in this sphere.  

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New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) has initiated the process to acquire and induct the first batch of the indigenous all-weather Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile – Astra – as it aims to recapture its edge over its Pakistani counterpart in air-to-air capability. 

To add to its options, the IAF is also in the process of integrating the Israeli I-Derby Extended Range missile on its frontline fighter aircraft, the Su 30 MKI. 

These missiles along with the already inducted MICA medium range BVR, and the long-range Meteor missiles will form the backbone of India’s air-to-air strike capability. 

We have initiated the process to acquire the first batch of the Astra missiles. Since it is indigenous, we will be procuring them in batches,” an IAF officer told ThePrint. 

During the aerial duel between India and Pakistan on 27 February last year, the IAF had felt the chinks in its air-to-air armour with the Pakistanis having had the edge in this sphere.

Pakistan’s F16s were armed with the AIM-120 C-5 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile), which has a higher capability than that of the medium range R-77 used by the Su 30 MKI and the MICA used by the Mirages. 

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A lost edge 

The IAF had the edge over its Pakistani counterpart during the Kargil battle in 1999 but lost it in 2010 when the American AMRAAM was deployed by the latter.

IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhaduria, had on 28 February this year said that the force is looking at regaining the upper hand in air-to-air missile capabilities that was “allowed to slip” amid a “struggle” to acquire missiles in a process that has lasted 15 years. 

The IAF chief was referring to the European-manufactured Meteor missiles that have a range of about 150 km. With the missile, an IAF pilot will be able to take out enemy aircraft at a distance of 150 km without even crossing the Indian airspace.

The Meteors have been ordered along with the Rafale fighters. While the first four Rafale fighters will land in India by May, it will take another year or so for them to be fully operationalised.  

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Only Rafales to have Meteor missiles 

While the initial plan was to try and integrate the Meteor missiles on the Mirage 2000, the Su 30 MKI and the Tejas Mark II, the European manufacturer of the missile – MBDA – told the IAF that the French-made Mirage 2000 and the Russian Su 30 MKI are not suitable for the long range missile.

For the Tejas, MBDA said that the missile can be integrated only when the aircraft is equipped with indigenous AESA radar rather than the Israeli one that will be initially used. 

Following this, the IAF has decided to restrict the Meteor missile to the Rafale and rely on better versions of Astra and I-Derby for its main firepower. 

While the Astra currently has a range of about 100 km, the Israeli I-Derby has about a 60 km range.

It is also a matter of cost,” a defence source said. “The Meteor is a very expensive missile. Astra, a fine missile, is cheaper by over half the price since it is indigenous. It is expected that future versions of Astra will beat the range of the Meteor itself.” 

Another missile which will be part of the IAF firepower is the British Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM). While it is already being integrated with the Anglo-French Jaguar aircraft, the plan is to integrate them on the Su 30 MKI. If successful, this missile will replace the short range R-73 air-to-air missile that is on board the Russian aircraft currently. 

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  1. The print and many commentator do not know abcd of aerial combet , first the bison got shot because it was not having the jamming pod but it’s wing man was having it, and he is suppose to give jamming cover, but in close combat that cover got eroded ,and that is the reason the seeker could not be jammed
    Some nuts said the Indian weapons missed the target,pls note that this weapons are so sophisticated that if the loaded data do not matches the target profile then they will simply drop to the ground and will not go off,because it used a penetrating warhead so why u see the structure standing, and so why the pak took 45 days to make a visit of foreign journalists.

  2. Pakistan provided tea to one Indian pilot for a day but Indians provided biryani with plenty of tea to 90000 Great Pakistani Army soldiers for one year after 1971 war. Then in 1984 Pakistani SSG were kicked out of Quaid post names after Jinnah and renamed as Indira post in SIACHIN. Remember Kargil where thousands of Pakistani soldiers were killed by Indian army when they were running away From battle field. Imran Khan Niazi uncle Gen AAA Niazi in 1971 war was so scared of Indian army that he wept in front of Indian generals. All of above are facts recorded in history

  3. Pakistani baggers forgot about Indian sourya hypersonic missiles. 8 sourya missiles is enough to ruined entire Pakistan in less than 3 minutes. No any existing air defense system can’t smell where n who slapped them even the Chinese.

    • I am waiting for the day The Print will only have readers in Pakistan. On or the other way, they find ways to deplore india and it’s forces. When will Indian journos stop feeling in CIA money?

  4. India already loosing the next air to air combat round. None of its missiles come close to Amraam c/d which have longer range than anything India is out to buy now but with if thunder block 3 and PL 15 missiles China is modernising Pakistan air force and navy with lots of new ship and at least 8 new air independent propulsion equip subs by 2028.
    Pakistan is getting way too close to Russia which feels under pressure for loosing Indian weapons custom to USA. This means Pakistan already has signed major arms deals with Russia and USA can’t afford to totally alienate Pakistan for all sorts of reasons. Modi keeps hugging Trump like a desperate poor relative come to stay but Imran khan got the royal treatment in white house, Trump didn’t make a single gaff and even praised Pakistani efforts against terrorism, so India is also loose the diplomatic and PR war with Kashmir and the citizen bill earning negative publicity.
    Pakistani army is focusing on improving the economy, cpac will not only help with that but also it would meaning because of gawadar port, China will be fully involved in any future war with Pakistan and days of India blockading Pakistani port of Karachi are long gone while Indian ports are vulnerable to Pakistani or Chinese action, who can tell if Chinese made subs belong to one country or another 8 Pakistani subs may increase suddenly in numbers and leality.
    Only major question now is which 4.5 gen fighter and stealth plane will Pakistan buy and could it build its own 5th generation het, so far Pakistan army leadership has met every challenge from nukes, fighter jets, missiles etc and they have worked closely with Chinese on their stealth planes and Thunder block 3 will also have some of tech deployed by j20. Russia is keen to sell su 35 to Pakistan and anti missile defence systems while America is offering India f16s renamed as f21 and keeps threatening sanctions for buying s400 from Russia, while India not only alienated Russia and lost much influence over what Russians sell to Pakistan but because of American promises of greener pastures India also bowed to American pressure and lost an influential friend and source of bargain priced oil source like Iran.
    India is stuck with moody Americans who don’t like any country to deviate from their policies, Israel and Saudis and uea are friends if I did but each is more desperate than other. They may well seem like ideal allies to Modi as they are all fighting Iranian proxies who donate middle East entirely but minus Israel they are all a liability in a war but even Israel has been check matted by Hezbollah, who can cause enough pain to Israel to make Israel and America think long and hard about a war with Iran, even if their is a major war with Iran , India most likely has chosen the wrong side and is in position Pakistan was during cold war. Get ready for Do More sound bites from every visiting American official.

  5. In comparison, IAF has three Israeli built PHALCON AWACS and two more DRDO built early warning systems mounted on an Embraer jet platform. The Israeli aircraft is fitted with the top-of-the-line Green Pine radar system that can look into enemy territory up to a range of 300 to 500km . It is this aircraft that successfully directed the air operations against a package of 24 Pakistan Air Force fighters on February 27 in Nowshera, the people added.

  6. The IAF capability is at the top end of sophisticated aircraft. It has access to a very large state of the art combat aircraft and deadly missile systems , including BVR missiles.
    I think the tactics employed were very poor, despite knowing that the PAF will retaliate. The IAF attacked at night and successfully penetrated Pakistani territory – hence mission objective partially achieved. Partially achieved because the Israeli SPICE bombs did not hit target.
    Furthermore, the loss of a MIG- 21 Bison (which has been upgraded to 4th generation aircraft) and the TOP OF THE LINE Su-30Mki was a massive shock. The shooting of the rescue helicopter by Israeli Spider SAM system indicated the chaos when the PAF attacked in broad daylight?
    The Government and the IAF can make many excuses and deny this happening…..but the world experts indicate otherwise. Even Christine Fair has made it clear when the IAF invited her.

    Heads need to roll for the government and IAF chiefs….only this way the IAF can do better? the blame game needs to stop…if we want improvements?

    • Bit harsh for heads to role considering the IAF successfully entered Pakistan air space, caught it’s air defences napping and retuned without losing a single aircraft. This is something even ChristineFair can not deny. But yes the IAF needs to tighten up it’s act instead of getting into inter services rivalry. Definitely the MOD needs greater accountability.

    • Couple of points here,

      1. If IAF’s SPICE bombs missed the targets then what took Pakistan to open the the JeM facility in balakot for international media after 45 days.

      2. MiG21 Bison even after the upgade is 3++ generation fighter and it brought down F-16, a 4th generation fighter using it’s inferior missiles. Thus proving once again, it’s not the machine but the man behind the machine is more important.

      Even in history, Patton tank & Sabre jets turned out to be useless in hands of Pakistani forces.

      PAF will never ever have an edge over IAF.

      3. None of the frontline Su-30 MKI was lost in action.

      4. IAF has always accepted it mistakes. Shooting down of IAF chopper was investigated and those responsible were court-martialed. If Su-30 was lost, IAF would have admitted it.

    • And the Pakistanis also shot down an Indian Rafale jet and Tejas mk 1a and Tejas mk 2 as well.

  7. Pakistan will not sit idle. The Indian Air Force, three times larger in terms of number of aircraft and ten times larger in procurement budget, had to see the ignominious day of 27 Feb 2019. Pakistan is also preparing for the next round. They are alarmed too. They are procuring long-range HQ-9 missile defense system, which is not as long range as S-400 that India is planning to deploy but deadly enough to deny IAF attack capability with impunity. The arrival of PL-15 might also brazen PAF if the reported capabilities of this weapon is true.

    • As long as PAF allows the IAF a free pass into Pakistan, like on 27th February, it doesn’t matter what weapons they buy or use.

      • As long as you have poorly trained gunmen behind the guns, you will fail. No matter how advanced guns you may buy. So focus on training instead of procuring.

        • yes focus on training paf cowards dont have guts to enter indian airspace can only fly over pakistan .

  8. Astra will outperform American AAMRAAM hence will bootle up Pakistani Air Force to a very limited area of operation. No new American supply is under consideration. Chinese version are far fro successful, although they make loud noise of their hardware.

  9. It looks as if we are buying vegetables for making pulao! AMRAAMs, ASRAAMs, VSRAAMs and what not!! If we have our own indigenous Astra, its range can be shortened or extended in due course but in a mission mode and different versions can be fitted on different aircraft. In the meanwhile, let us fight with what we have (R-77, I-Derby etc) along with incoming Meteors and Astra. It will be quite a while before we will need them to fire again on PAF. Finally we do not need Air to Air missiles for very distance!! Hopefully we will make best use of available budget and not spread it too thin for all possible threat scenarios of a two front two week full scale war. If we can hit PAF at the moment they threaten to intrude our airspace, that will be enough for them and for us!

    • Yes IAF did come for tea on 27th February, but what to do if Pakistan’s airdefence and Air Force failed to spot them and let them in till Balakot and return back to India without any mehman nawazi that Pakistan is famous for. Anyway there is always a next time as PAF defence forces seem to be better at making tea then defending their territory.

      • Because when IAF came it came as a thief at night when no one expected it. You should be on alert when you knew we are going to come! Now its clear who was caught pants down!

        • and paf never entered indian air space , cowards using american amraam from their area only . after arrival of s400 paf will not be seen even near border , s400 have operational range of 400 km , it can attack jet flying in islamabad easily if its deployed at loc.

  10. Heads ought to roll in the MOD and the IAF over allowing the “edge to be lost” to Pakistan in terms of air-air missile capability. It is a disgrace that an impoverished nation on its knees like Pakistan could develop overwhelming air superiority over India on 27th Feb 2019, intruding into our airspace in broad daylight when we were supposedly on full alert, bomb our army installations and return unscathed, shooting down an Indian fighter as it gave chase. We suffered the indignity of seeing Wing Commander Abhinandan paraded with his hands bound behind his back on global television.

    It is not as if we did not know that the PAF had a superior missile – they acquired the AIM-120 way back in 2010, and built up a stockpile of over 500 of them. The Indian Navy has had the apparently superior Derby in its inventory for years, having flow it on the now retired Harriers. The IAF had tested the ASRAAM way back in 2013 and found it suitable. Why then were our mighty Sukhois cowering in the rear with their dud Russian missiles, unable to take on the PAF F16s and JF-17s?

    And missiles are not the only sphere in which the reportedly inferior PAF got the better of us. They fielded better and more numerous airborne radars (AWACS) than we did, having assiduously built up a fleet of Swedish and Chinese origin systems whilst we lag behind with a couple of vintage Russian A50s and a couple of indigenous Netra systems. Why do we still have just these….. what stops us from having acquired several more Netras by now, after all we have the technology.

    It is just as well that Pakistan’s overall economic condition prevented it from exploiting its air superiority to rub our noses in it; or we may have had to face the ignominy of their doing some real damage deeper inside our territory and making a mockery of our so-called regional super-power status and alleged new-found resolve to combat terror. God forbid matters had escalated beyond 27th Feb and we had to face the spectre of a nuclear-armed PAF being able to enter our airspace with impunity.

    It is no good for the IAF and MOD bureaucrats to point fingers at each other; or for the current lot of politicians to blame the previous government. If we are to see some real change in our lethargic, incompetent, bumbling way of doing things then we need some accountability … let the PM sack all those who were in charge of procurement in the MOD and IAF over the past years and make an example of them. Hype, bluster and knee jerk reaction to events do not win wars; intelligent planning, timely decision making and readiness do.

    • Pakistani planes didn’t return unscathed.. lost F16 in d course.. Rest, all ur points are valid..

      • Listen to Christine fair video about the fallacy of downed F 16 !!!

        No military can ever improve if it does not see facts as they are even if these facts are painful !!!

        • Very correct. No wonder Pakistan keeps getting easily defeated. It just doesn’t learn from previous defeats.

        • christine fair just going with probabilities , didn’t proved anything . the main thing is pakistani eye witness say they say more than one parachute in sky .

        • yes pakistani eye witness , they claims to have seen more than one parachute in sky , which shows pakistan hiding other pilot

    • Modi have to sack all in charge of border areas along Pakistan because not only on 27th February Pakistan downed Indian fighter jets but one may remember there was other incidents reported in which 3 separate locations Indian jets crashed following 2 weeks they were also downed by Pakistan air force but India reported them just crashed because modi government don’t want to disappoint public. But it was actually because India doesn’t want to stop air surveillance so Pakistan had to act,after India stopped aerial surveillance one can see there is no more crash of Indian jets.
      Next round Pakistan will have with tanks BHISHMA, and ARJUN against AL KHALID and AL ZARRAR and it will be because Indian army already using israeli made anti tank missiles against Pakistan border areas along LOC and believe it ,it will be tooth breaking response from Pakistan. Pakistan’s alkhalid and alzarrar tanks are much better than what Indian side poses. On the Kashmir front Pakistan deployed only less than 60,000 for 900,000 Indian troops but its only Indian side which start skirmishes on LOC then leave their bunkers and runs for hiding.
      On the episode of 27 th February your navy was deterred very nicely. Your navy never had chance to make any move because of Pakistan’s submarines.
      Any war which India will start with Pakistan Pakistan will end it with victory. It’s not time of 48s and 65s when India claimed victory for lost wars . We Pakistanis accept India won 71 war because there was 2000 km ocean which Pakistan had to go through. Now that time is gone, and today Pakistan is stronger than ever even on world stage. Pakistan showed India closer of air space with another wave of skirmishes with India Pakistan and Muslim countries will block India by sea routes. And India will be paralyzed completely.
      India killed thousands of people in Pakistan by terrorist activities from Afghanistan and Iran and keep continuing it,if India didn’t stopped it leaving Pakistan no choice but to attack India and strangle her from neck whenever Pakistan wants it’s up to Pakistan. India made Pakistan surrender in Bangladesh with 90,000 troops, Pakistan will make India surrender with 900,000 troops and this will be remembered in human history forever.

      • Now only if Pakistan’s defence capabilities could match your bravado. Unable to spot IAF planes and letting them fly into Balakot and return unscathed, the PAF is only capable of aerial bombing of unarmed women, children and old men in Pakistan itself, in the name of war on terror. Americans and Indians can walk in and out as they please with Pakistan’s air defence not having a clue.

    • Totally agree………….previous Air Chief should have been sacked for the Feb 27th fiasco …..rather he roams around like a hero…..even an impartial defense analyst Christine fair ridiculed his claims in front of the whole world……really shameful !!!

    • If Pakistan’s defence systems were so robust no IAF plane would have reached Balakot and returned unscathed. Unable to even spot IAF planes and making deeper incursions into Indian territory is a far fetched idea,

  11. It is a correct thinking to give priority to missiles. Elon Musk says that the era of jet fighters is over. It will not be wise to invest in a technology that will be obsolete in next 5 years.

    • It will be better for India to just abandon aggressive ideology of chanakiya ,because of thinking superior you can’t be superior, because of Indian aggressive policies against her neighbors today even Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh are against India. It will be better for India to just handover Kashmir to Pakistan and resolve all outstanding issues with her neighbors as soon it’s possible else get ready to shatter in many pieces almost to dozen,

      • Hahaha..a beggar of a country is threating us, remember looser we can crush you and bring on your feet whenever and wherever we can like we did in the past 4 wars where your army was seeing running like chickens. And as far as Kashmir is concerned , can’t you do a better job at begging given that is what your prime minister and majority of your jahil madarsachap population does for a living.

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