Chinese air force growing presence in Tibet: IAF chief

Chinese air force growing presence in Tibet: IAF chief

On the day PM Narendra Modi leaves for China for an informal summit with President Xi Jinping, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa said Indian Air Force was keeping a close watch on the Chinese air force's growing presence in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

“There had been significant increase in deployment of aircraft and aircrew in the TAR from other military regions. China has developed a modern air force,” IAF chief said here on Thursday at a function.

Notwithstanding the handicaps it faced in the TAR because of the harsh climate and low air density, People's Liberation Army (PLA) and air force had improved its air power in the TAR over the years, using force multipliers like mid-air refuellers, airborne radars and air to air missile.

In 2011, PLAAF used to operate 6-8 aircraft from two airfields in the TAR. A year later first high altitude weapon trials were carried out and by 2014, PLAAF presence showed a 300% rise in the TAR, according to a report prepared by Lt Gen V K Saxena, former director general, Corps of Army Air Defence.

Latest reports indicate an almost a year-round presence of J10, J11 and SU-27 aircraft in TAR either on deployment or exercises, the report adds.

On India's preparedness, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said, “We need to plan as per an adversary's capability because intention will change overnight.”

His comments come a day ahead of Modi and Xi meeting where the two leaders are likely to discuss confidence-building measures on the military front in order to leave behind the wrinkles caused by the Doklam stand-off.

The IAF chief, however, discarded the concept of theatre commands under which all military assets are placed under the command of one service, depending on the location. “IAF has the capability to launch from Pune and strike in northern frontiers,” he said.

On Pakistan, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said Pakistan Army would continue to keep Kashmir boiling but won't boil out the problem. “Pakistan had a change of behaviour in 2001 when we threatened to bomb them to stone age. We have the capability to wage a short-term war tomorrow,” he asserted.


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