The Indian Combat Aircraft Downselect

By Praveen Swami

Even as India’s advantage over Pakistan diminishes, it has China to consider – not because a war is probable, or even plausible, but because militaries must plan and be prepared for worst-case scenarios.

For much of its history, China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force had a huge air inventory, numbering over 5,000 aircraft, but over three-fifths of this consisted of obsolete MiG19 second-generation fighters. But in recent years, China has moved towards becoming a genuine aerospace power: by 2020, the PLAAF will have more fourth-generation fighters than the entire IAF fleet.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government will almost certainly come under intense pressure to review its decision. It would do well to accept the expert assessment of those who understand its combat aviation needs the best – the women and men who may or may not, one day, have to fly them into danger.


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