Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria on Monday said India has initiated the process for indigenous development of futuristic military systems like directed energy weapons, optionally manned combat platforms and swarm drones to bolster the country's defence prowess.
Addressing a press conference ahead of Air Force Day on October 8, Mr Bhadauria also said the Defence Research and Development Organisation has set a target of 2027 to roll out an advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA).
India is working on the ambitious USD 5 billion project to develop the fifth-generation medium weight deep penetration fighter jet to significantly bolster its air power capability.
"For the future, we have initiated processes for developing indigenous combat systems with sixth generation technologies including directed energy weapons, smart wingman concept, optionally manned combat platforms, swarm drones, hypersonic weapons etc," Mr Bhadauria said.
The directed energy weapons are futuristic solutions that use high-energy lasers and microwaves to carry out targeted strikes. The swarm drones are a set of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or aerial robots which can carry out attacks on specific targets.
The optionally manned platforms are next generation combat vehicles that operate on artificial intelligence-enabled navigational systems, providing for performing high-precision missions.
Mr Bhadauria also said the IAF is looking at acquiring midair refuellers on lease as per provision of the new Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP).
Earlier, the IAF planned to acquire at least six midair refuellers.
The Chief of Air Staff also touched upon the IAF's ambitious modernisation drive and said its position as a credible combat ready force is vital given the role it will play towards ensuring victory in any future conflict.
"The IAF is transforming at a rapid pace and over the years we have grown from being a tactical force to a strategic one with trans-oceanic reach," he said.
Talking about future challenges, the IAF chief also said the space domain is likely to dominate in times to come and it is being given the required thrust.
"Overall, I would say we are moving in the right direction at the required pace and would continue to be counted amongst the top Air Forces of the world in the time to come," he said.
On the AMCA project, Mr Bhadauria said the IAF is fully supporting it.
"We would like to have the fifth generation aircraft with sixth generation technology," he said.
The Chief of Air Staff also said the IAF has placed its trust on indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas.
"We have placed our trust in the LCA. In the next five years we will commence induction of 83 LCA Mark 1A. We are supportive of DRDO and HAL''s effort at their indigenous production and you will soon see the contract of HTT 40 aircraft and Light Combat Helicopter (LCH)," he said
He said the IAF is planning to digitise its older air defence systems and seamlessly integrate them along with its latest acquisitions.
"We have already achieved a major milestone in network centric operations through the IACCS (Integrated Air Command and Control System). Building on that, we are further upgrading and hardening our networks to counter cyber threats and ensure robust and redundant Command and Control, decision making structures that can handle any air battle," he said.
As part of modernisation of the IAF, Mr Bhadauria said a leading Indian IT firm has developed an electronic maintenance management system (e-MMS) which has details of all flying platforms of the IAF
"Virtually this is the world's largest such maintenance monitoring system and this has been a huge achievement with the private sector. Now, we intend to achieve enhanced automation and paperless work flow by year end through projects on nearly all operational, administrative and maintenance related activities," he said.