Opening remarks by Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari in his press briefing on October 3, 2023 on the eve of the Indian Air Force Day 2023
Members of the media fraternity, ladies and gentlemen, a very warm welcome to all of you! It is indeed a great opportunity for me to be here and share my thoughts with you and the entire nation on the occasion of the 91st anniversary of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Air Force day is a momentous occasion for all air warriors as we reaffirm our sacred pledge to protect the nation's sovereignty and integrity. We also pause to remember and pay tribute to our predecessors who laid the foundation for the IAF and nurtured it with their sweat and blood to transform into a potent and a combat ready Air Force. This annual landmark event allows us to assess the achievements of the year gone by and set new targets for the future.
"The Indo-Pacific region is the new economic and strategic centre of gravity of the world and offers us both challenges and opportunities"
Owing to the volatile and uncertain geopolitical landscape in our region, the need to have a strong and credible military has become an imperative. The Indo-Pacific region is the new economic and strategic centre of gravity of the world and offers us both challenges and opportunities. IAF, with its inherent capability to see the farthest, reach the fastest and hit the hardest, will be critical in mitigating these challenges and will remain a fulcrum in projecting India's might in the region.
Indian Air Force has played an important role in all wars fought by our country, undertaken punitive air strikes when called upon, extricated our diaspora from conflict zones and provided succour and relief through Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief missions within and beyond our borders. We carried out Operation Kaveri to evacuate our citizens from Sudan, where we flew 22 sorties (115 Hr), extricated 2,100 persons and carried 58 tonnes of critical load. During Operation Dost to aid Turkiye and Syria, we flew 28 sorties (188 Hr) and carried 307 tonnes of load. These operations were carried out under challenging circumstances and our crew executed the missions flawlessly. In the last one year we have employed our assets for flood relief operations in Himachal Pradesh, Telangana, Punjab, Haryana and Maharashtra. Rescue operations were undertaken in Ladakh after heavy snow fall and we deployed our helicopters to fight forest fires in Goa and Tamil Nadu. Towards aid to civil power, we responded quickly to deploy central forces where required to restore law and order.
"IAF has demonstrated its versatility with successful operations in disaster relief, evacuations, and aid to civil power, showcasing their adaptability in crisis situations"
Modern warfare is constantly undergoing a transformation, due to rapid advancements in technology. Indian Air Force being a technology intensive force needs to keep pace with these advancements and assimilate new technology to remain relevant. To achieve this, we have embarked on the journey of transformation and are progressing in a planned and systematic manner. Our focus is on hidden force multipliers in the form of AI based decision tools, electronic warfare equipment, robust networks and harnessing space and cyber capabilities. While adding newer and more potent equipment, platforms and weapons to our arsenal, we are also committed to Atmanirbhar Bharat and are contributing extensively towards enhancing indigenisation in defence production. Fast-paced development and operationalisation of indigenous aerospace projects, persistent surveillance capability, shortening of sensor to shooter time, long range precision strikes, and development of multi-domain capability are the main focus areas for the IAF. We have recently witnessed the induction of the first C295 aircraft in 11 Squadron. The project is an important milestone in boosting our defence industry and will contribute immensely by generating 42.5 lakh man-hours of work involving over 6,000 direct and indirect jobs and skill employment opportunities. Around 125 MSMEs, spread over seven states, will be involved in the manufacturing of over 13,400 parts, 4,600 sub-assemblies and all the seven major component assemblies.
"Our focus is on hidden force multipliers in the form of AI based decision tools, electronic warfare equipment, robust networks and harnessing space and cyber capabilities"
Research and Development (R&D) plays a significant role in ensuring the armed forces remain future ready. Scientific breakthroughs will convert into battlefield capabilities after a certain gestation period but they are critical to ensure that we are equipped to fight tomorrow's war with weapons and systems incorporating the latest technology. The 'iDEX' and 'Make' programmes have given the desired impetus to the Make in India initiative for defence specific R&D. We took the lead by signing a contract under the iDEX programme for counter UAS systems. We are continuing to tread that path and have recently signed the contract for Swarm Unmanned Munition Systems which was the outcome of an extremely successful Mehar Baba Swarm Drones competition launched by the IAF. While work is in progress to develop capabilities like MUM-T and High Altitude Pseudo Satellites, we are also looking at innovative solutions to resolve day to day functional issues to improve operations, maintenance and administration activities. To give you all an idea of the kind of the moneys involved, contracts for LCH, LCA Mk1A, HPRs and CIWS are likely to be concluded and the cost is approximately 1,72,469 crores. The yearly cash outflow for this year is 41,180 crores. When we talk about Contracts already signed in this financial year, we are looking at about 16,000 crores for only domestic acquisition schemes.
"We are also committed to Atmanirbhar Bharat and are contributing extensively towards enhancing indigenisation in defence production"
To encourage innovation within the service, we have introduced the concept of Innovation Managers who have been identified and selected based on their capabilities and are being provided additional training at a premier business school in the field of innovation. Officers finally designated and posted as Innovation Managers will have the opportunity to steer IAF's innovation initiatives in design and development and become IAF's interface with R&D centres, Start-ups and MSMEs.
Flying exercises are an important tool for air forces to sharpen skills and validate tactics while operating with other professional air forces in the world. Following the principles of inclusiveness and building strategic partnerships, IAF has been at the forefront for conducting bi-lateral and multi-lateral engagements with the FFCs across all the continents.
IAF has undertaken a large number of exercises in the recent past both in India and abroad with leading air forces. Key takeaways and best practises from these exercises have been incorporated into our training and operational philosophy.
For us in the Indian Air Force, the man or woman behind the machine is the most important asset in our inventory. Human Resource Management remains our top most priority. We have regularly revised and updated our HR policies to match personal aspirations with organisational requirements. Career progression, professional military education and placing the right person at the right place are key HR imperatives that the IAF is focussed on.
"Human Resource Management remains our top most priority. We have regularly revised and updated our HR policies to match personal aspirations with organisational requirements."
We have left no stone unturned to ensure that the Agnipath scheme launched by the Government is successful and contributes effectively in ensuring combat preparedness of the armed forces. The first batch of Agniveervayu passed out from Airmen Training School, Belagavi on June 3, 2023 after 22 weeks of rigorous training. Through sustained collaborative efforts between us and the Ministry of Education (MoE), we have signed MoUs with various academic institutions for award of Academic or Skill based degrees to Agniveervayus. This will permit them to find employment opportunities after four years of initial engagement and contribute to the society.
Space operations will find many similarities to air operations as compared to operations in any other domain. Freedom to operate in space without interference from the adversary is of vital national importance.
A strong, self-reliant, and credible Aerospace Force would definitely be an essential step towards achieving first of the Five Prans (Panch Pranas) of Amritkaal that is "to Become a Developed Country".
IAF has always been gender agnostic and recognises merit without any prejudices. It is a matter of pride that IAF became the first service to post a woman officer in command of a combat unit. The first batch of Agniveer women are currently undergoing training and for induction into the IAF in all trades.
As we progress in our centenary decade, you have my assurance that IAF will remain fully committed to the protection of sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country. On behalf of the entire Indian Air Force, I express my gratitude to the nation for the trust, confidence and support reposed in us.
Thank you and Jai Hind!