India has marginally increased its defence spendings and the Indian Air Force appears to be the biggest beneficiary. The marginal increases comes after one of the world’s fastest-growing economies is recording its slowest expansion since the 2008 global financial crisis.
The Indian finance minister did not mention the military allocations in her budget speech, saying only that “national security is a top priority “. However, documents showed the military spending increased to $47.418 billion from last year’s $44.744 billion, including $15.58 billion for buying new weapon systems.
The major chunk of the allocation – $6 billion – went to the Indian Air Force (IAF) as New Delhi has payments to make for massive projects like Rafale jets (France), Apache and Chinook helicopters (the US) and S-400 missile systems (Russia).
The Indian army got $4.557 billion and the navy got $3.755 billion. The Indian Navy plans to expand its fleet to 175 warships by 2027 from the current 130 warships. Some 50 warships were under construction in shipyards in and outside the country.
Respite for the Indian Air Force
The Indian Air Force which has got the maximum budget allocation and was desperate for a boost-up. The current squadron strength of fighters has come down to just 28, even though the sanctioned strength is 42 squadrons. Of this, about 10 squadrons are made up of the MiG-21 Bisons and Jaguars, which should have been retired and replaced long ago.
The Indian Air Force is struggling to even keep up with Pakistan, forget China. The plans to procure 114 new fighters for the IAF besides the 36 Rafales ordered in 2015, is still in the process. Indian Media quoting Air Force sources say the file is moving at a deliberately slow speed because there are no funds.
On 27 February 2019, the Indian Air Force got a rude shock as it was almost outsmarted by Pakistani Air Force (PAF), which carried out a raid targeting Indian military installations after the Balakot airstrike. The PAF with its superior fighters, missiles and the airborne early warning and control systems stunned New Delhi.
The PAF also shot-down an Indian Mig-21 Bison and captured an Indian pilot. Even though the Modi Government managed to get back the captured pilot within 48 hours, it was sad to see then IAF chief Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa admitting that had the Rafale fighters come in early as per the original plan, the outcome would have been different.