The Indian military capability requirement for the year 2025 would hinge upon the scenarios envisaged, and the capability required to deal with them. However, as stated earlier, this paper will deal only with the aerospace aspect of the military capabilities required for such a scenario. Enumerated in the subsequent paragraphs are the various scenarios and factors deciding such plans.
(49) Twin-Front Scenario. The scenario envisages an active engagement across two fronts, i.e. the Northern and Western ones. The assumptions are that the pure military capabilities required would have to achieve parity or stalemate situations on both fronts, while allowing a certain amount of reserve capability to be retained. The other assumption is that complete mobilisation is achieved on both fronts by all forces engaged, and pre-hostility logistics is not a factor. Further, international diplomacy has failed, or is likely to cut in at a much later stage, by which time considerable firepower has already been exchanged.
(51) One plus One Front Scenario. In this scenario, while the active engagement would be across only one front, massive force mobilisation would be exercised by the other adversary, to prevent redeployment of Indian capability. Defensive force strengths would therefore have to be maintained across the inactive front too. Considering the Chinese ability to mobilize large force strengths across the TAR and Yunnan province, the force levels considered would be theirs.
(52) The threat from Pakistan is clear cut as the entire might of the PAF is likely to be pitched against the IAF in case of a conflict. However, the same is not the case with the PLAAF. In case of a contingency involving the Chinese, the force fielded by the PLAAF would be heavily dependent on the capabilities and limitations of the PLAAF in this theatre, i.e. Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). The high elevation of the Tibetan Plateau imposes severe limitations in the performance of the aircraft that the PLAAF can field. The numbers would be dependent on the infrastructure available to the PLAAF in TAR. Due to its mountainous terrain and difficult weather conditions, TAR features barely any permanent, major PLAAF bases. However, China has developed a dense airport network and a series of forward operating bases that it could use in a conflict. There are up to 14 air bases available within the TAR. Though most are officially for civil purposes, they can be utilized by the PLAAF in case of a conflict. China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has established bases at Hoping, Pangta, Shiquanhe, Bayixincun (in Central Tibet opposite Arunachal Pradesh) and Kong Ka. There are two airfields at Lhasa, airfields at Shannan, Xigaze and an additional four in the sector which can be made operational quickly. Many have runways of 4,000 m length.1 PLAAF can deploy a maximum of 16 squadrons against India from these airfields in the Western Theatre Command. Additionally, China could field another two squadrons against India from bases opposite Myanmar. i.e. the Southern Theatre Command. Therefore, the PLAAF would most probably field a strength of 18 squadrons against India in a conflict. These would predominantly be fourth generation fighters of the J-10, J-11 and SU-27/SU-30MKK/SU-35 class along with a sizeable number of J-20 Stealth aircraft. Taking an average of 18 ac per squadron, PLAAF is likely to have 324 ac against India, of which at least 290 odd ac would be fourth generation ac or better.
(53) The PAF is likely to have close to 90 fourth generation F-16 ac along with approximately 200 JF-17 ac in 2025. Taking an average of 18 ac per squadron, this amounts to 16 squadrons of fourth generation ASF class ac with the PAF. These aircraft would have largely replaced the ageing Mirage fleet and the F-7 ac from the PAF inventory. Nevertheless, a handful of these legacy ac may still be in use in 2025 as PAF is looking to extend the service life of the upgraded Mirages till 2025. Most probable strength of the PAF would be 20-22 fighter squadrons. This amounts to 288 ac with PAF of the fourth generation or better in 2025.