Military power is meant to avoid war and not to perpetuate it. A military strategist would want to win a war without firing a single shot. Military capability is built to deter the adversary from any misadventure, and simultaneously impose your political will on your adversary. It is significant to note that after the Parliament attack in December 2001, the decision to line up large number of forces along the border (Operation Parakram) to demonstrate political will, resulted in over 700 casualties and huge losses of equipment. The bold decision of the present political leadership to strike Balakot terrorist camp in Pakistan was indeed a paradigm shift from the previous policy of restraint. Through the use of air power, in 30 minutes, the leadership achieved what could not be achieved in seven months after the Parliament attack with Operation Parakram and that too without any loss of man or machine. Such is the effect of air power.
In any future conflict, it must be air power that would play a leading role. The effectiveness, long reach, precision weapon delivery at stand off ranges, in a dense air defence environment gives air power credible deterrence capability. More importantly, the considered political objective of any country could be achieved through the optimal use of air power. The air strikes at the Balakot terrorist training camp last February is a classic example of air power being utilized to achieve a political objective.
The importance of air power cannot be understated given the fact that 70% of capital defence expenditure in the last fiscal was earmarked for air assets for all three services. This trend is likely to continue in the future.
Considering the above, a strong case can be made to have a robust IAF to achieve credible deterrence capability for India.
However, it must be noted that the force level of 42 fighter squadrons needed to meet a two-front threat would dwindle down to half by 2030. This would imply that your operational capability would drastically reduce as also your deterrence assets.
It is therefore necessary that we urgently replace the retiring fighter squadrons in a very short period of time. Aircraft cannot be purchased off-the-shelf . The procurement process is time consuming and is difficult to compress. The manufacturing process involves integrating numerous parts and expensive raw material which is not held in bulk. As a consequence, the decision making time at the political level has to be reduced, to maintain the required combat potential of the air force.