"We are fully prepared to deal with any situation and challenge in the region," said the IAF chief

New Delhi: Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari said on Tuesday that the Indian Air Force is fully committed to the Theaterisation concept to best utilise India's military resources but at the same time stressed that the new model should reflect the strengths and requirements of each service.

Addressing a press conference ahead of Air Force Day on October 8, he said the IAF is fully prepared to deal with any security challenge in eastern Ladakh and that new airbases and other infrastructure created by the Chinese side in the region will not affect his force's combat readiness.

The newly-appointed Chief of Air Staff spoke on a range of issues including the IAF's modernisation plan, dealing with new security challenges in the wake of geopolitical developments, enhancing the force's capability to deal with rogue drones and phasing out old aircraft like the MiG-21 jets.

Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said the IAF should have around 35 fighter squadrons by the next decade as he talked about the phasing out of old aircraft and induction of new ones.

He said there are four MiG-21 squadrons and the plan is to retire them in the next three to four years.

Asked about security threats emanating from close ties between Islamabad and Beijing, he said there was nothing to worry about the partnership, but flagged concerns over the possibility of western technology reaching China from Pakistan.

Assuring the nation that the IAF will be ever ready to safeguard the nation's sovereignty and interests in all circumstances, Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said his force is effectively capable of dealing with a "two-front" war scenario involving China and Pakistan.

Replying to a question on China ramping up infrastructure development along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, he said India was aware of it and noted that the neighbouring country continued its deployment at three airbases in the Tibet region.

However, he said the building of airfields and other infrastructure by China will not impact India's military preparedness and suggested that the Chinese military has the disadvantage of high altitude in the region. "That is a weak area for them."

"We are fully prepared to deal with any situation and challenge in the region," said the IAF chief.

Air Chief Marshal Chaudhary also noted that the IAF was fully committed to Theaterisation concept to maximise the utilisation of military resources. But noted that wider discussions on the requirement of each service should be ensured to carry forward the initiative.

"Various options are being discussed among three forces...Strengths of each service need to be taken into account," the IAF chief said.

In July, the then IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria flagged concerns over the Theaterisation plan arguing that there was a need to get the structures right.

The theatre commands are being planned to integrate the capabilities of the three services and to ensure optimal utilisation of their resources. The theatre commands are being set up under a larger mandate of ensuring synergy among the three service chiefs to deal with future security challenges.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat has been focusing on bringing convergence among the three services and restructuring military commands to effectively deal with future security challenges.

There has been a growing perception that the Indian Air Force has some reservations about the Theaterisation program.

Asked about the delivery of the S-400 air defence systems by Russia, the Air Chief marshal said the first batch is expected to arrive within this year.

On the deployment of anti-drone technology, he said efforts are underway to enhance indigenous capabilities.

To a question, he admitted that the IAF has had a large number of accidents involving the MiG-21 fleet but noted that there has been a reduction in such accidents.

On the proposed procurement of 114 medium combat aircraft, the IAF chief said the response to the Request for Information (RFI) has been received from several aerospace forms and that the process is taken forward to the next phase.