PTI: India's Joint Nuclear Command Wants 40 Nuclear Strike Jets

A befuddling report on the wires. The Press Trust of India, reports that India's joint nuclear command -- the Strategic Forces Command -- is looking to procure 40 fighters for two dedicated strategic strike squadrons. The report indicates that while the Indian Air Force's Mirage-2000s, Jaguars and Su-30MKIs have so far been earmarked for the nuclear strike profile, the SFC wants two squadrons of its own. The report says nothing more. The Ministry of Defence has not commented on the report.

If this report is accurate -- and there are no official indications so far that it is -- the obvious questions would be: (a) Why does the SFC need its own fighters -- why can't it continue to depend on available IAF assets? (b) Why the need to ramp up the air-delivered leg of the nuclear triad when Indian doctrine points to more substantive deterrence from strategic land-based missiles and an SSBN fleet, and far less on air-delivered deterrence? (c) Why does a nuclear strike fleet need as many as 40 aircraft? (d) Does India have the kind of stand-off nuclear weapon capability to justify such a fresh induction of assets? (e) If the SFC were to get its own "mini air force", would these still be operated by the IAF? (f) In which case, what difference would it make?

A totally separate but tantalizing coincidence -- in June, Dassault offered the IAF a fast-track sale of 40 Rafales to shore up squadron strength ahead of the MMRCA induction. The Rafale is also the only aircraft explicitly described in its bid document as a nuclear capable strike fighter. Answers to those questions above and more details later this evening.

Jaguar Photo Courtesy IAF

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