To continue keeping up with the ever-shifting geopolitics, the Indian Air Force (IAF) recently made public the updated version of its Doctrine, which discusses the latest foundation of its defensive and offensive operations and the importance of its aerospace power role in maintaining national security during “peace, war, and no war no peace” situations.
The Doctrine, which contains India’s Roadmap Beyond 2022, also includes the years of combat experience, knowledge, and lessons learned since its formation almost a century ago to stay relevant across different conflict scenarios and to serve as a reference not only for the armed forces and government but also for individuals interested to know more about the military branch’s operations, including think tanks, universities, and the media.
In the foreword, Indian Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari explained that “the updated version of the IAF’s Doctrine… lays down the pervasive concepts of aerospace power while providing adequate freedom in the application of its elements.”
He continued: “This edition of the Doctrine focuses on the aspects that would provide guidance in Peace, War, and No War No Peace situations to ensure continued operational success in the coming decades.”
“I am certain that this will enable a better understanding of the fundamental approach of IAF towards military operations not only within the organization but also amongst the other Services, government agencies, media, think tanks, and universities,” Chaudhari added.
The IAF was first established on October 8, 1932, as an auxiliary air force of the British Empire—known then as the Royal Indian Air Force—and has since been protecting the country’s airspace in coordination with the Army and Navy. It wasn’t until 1995, however, when the first IAF Doctrine was published, which included topics such as the theory of war, characteristics of air power and its relationship with strategy, and combat support operations, to name a few, that would guide its military personnel to “perform all its tasks with utmost dedication and professionalism.” Moreover, it established awareness among its people regarding the IAF operations. Like most countries that highly emphasized the importance of air dominance, India made several revisions to its Doctrine, one in 2007 and the other in 2012, to keep pace with the evolving military technology.
The IAF likewise shifted its focus from air power to aerospace power, considering air and space have already begun to merge—thus need to be further exploited, or else lag behind other giant nations. Recognizing the impact advanced technology will have in the future of aerospace, the IAF is set to become flexible, versatile, and responsive at both strategic and tactical levels in the field.
Changes in the 2022 IAF Doctrine include its re-emphasis on its vision and core values; redefining the nature of aerospace power and principles of war, as well as reclarifying the concept of its National Security matrix; presenting the current structure of its aerospace power and air strategy; and discussing what aerospace power meant in the Indian context. In addition, the Doctrine also gave its objectives for the future beyond 2022, considering how advanced technology has been evolving in recent years and how important it is for the branch to integrate such sophisticated platforms, including but not limited to artificial intelligence and robotics, hypersonic flight and weapons, and manned-unmanned tandem, to keep up with other superpower nations.
Another matter that the latest Doctrine has highlighted is its triumphant progress in indigenization. Especially with the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, India has been doubling on making sure that its military assets would be produced domestically and gradually ease off dependency on importation.
“Aatmanirbharta Bharat” (“self-reliant India”) has been one of the primary goals of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government since taking office in 2014. This is not only to boost its economy into the global stage but also to ensure that disruption of the supply chain during a conflict will be reduced to a minimum.
Besides taking notes on what’s been happening in the Russia-Ukraine war, India has also based the revision of its Doctrine on its ongoing standoff with China and existing tension with Pakistan.
Today, the IAF ranks fourth among the top ten most significant and most advanced air forces in the World based on the number of military aircraft, with over 1,700. According to World Population Review, the United States continues to dominate the list with more than 5,000 aircraft, followed by Russia and China. The rest of the list comprises Egypt, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, Japan, and Saudi Arabia.
Last week, India’s largest biannual air expo event opened to spectators and aviation enthusiasts at the IAF Station in Yelahanka, Bengaluru. During the five-day event, India showcased its various aerospace and defense assets made by its indigenous and some foreign manufacturers. Flying shows were also scheduled throughout the week, and the country’s treasure, the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, took center stage.
Asia's biggest Air Show #AeroIndia2023 Day 1 Flying display! pic.twitter.com/ySlwWhvPYG
— Aero India (@AeroIndiashow) February 13, 2023