New Delhi: By 2021 India will have raised a new Mountain Strike Corp which will be dedicated for China. Over 75,000 troops along with tanks, artillery, mechanised infantry, support and attack helicopters, special forces and sniper divisions and the deadly BrahMos Missiles will form the backbone of this Mountain Strike Corp.
However there is one thing missing in all of Indian Army’s Strike Corps and i.e. a dedicated air-to-ground attack force in the Indian Army Aviation Wing. The only aircraft that could effectively play that role is the legendary A-10 Warthog that was designed to fire armor-piercing depleted uranium and high explosive incendiary rounds that can vaporise enemy ground tanks and troops.
India is currently inducting the Air dominance Su-30 MKI fighters and will also soon induct 36 Rafale fighters in the next 2 years in fly-away condition from France. The last A-10 rolled off the assembly lines in the year 1984 and there is talk in the U.S. Military establishment to retire the entire fleet of the A-10s. India should think about inducting dedicated air-to-ground precision strike fighters like the A-10 to support the Army’s strike corps.
Each A-10 cost an average of US 26.6 million dollars or less than 1/6th of a new F-35 Lightning II. The fact that both the Su-30MKI and the Rafale are highly expensive jets to be exposed to a high intensity ground battle that could involve SAMs and other ground to air missiles to take on fighter jets. In such a scenario it would be wise for India to acquire a plane dedicated for high intensity ground conflicts that could hit targets on the ground with precision and speed.
During the Kargil conflict in the summer of 1999, air-to-ground strikes by fighter ground attack (FGA) aircraft of the IAF had played an important role in neutralising Pakistan Army defences. The destruction of a logistics camp at Muntho Dhalo was shown repeatedly on national television.
India already has a huge technological and numerical superiority over the Pakistani Air Force. The induction of the A-10 Warthog in the Indian Army’s Aviation Corp will free up resources of the Indian Air Force thus giving them more room to breathe.
Having a dedicated ground-attack fighter jet like the A-10 Thunderbolt will literally pave the way for a quick and decisive victory for advancing Indian forces against the enemy. Use of battle tanks in the event of an India-China conflict is highly unlikely because of the treacherous mountainous terrain of the Himalayan region and hence the A-10 Thunderbolt will effectively be used only in an Indo-Pak conflict.
India’s Cold Start Doctrine that can conduct highly effective and offensive operations as part of unified battle groups can become even more deadlier and a nightmare for Pakistan if the A-10’s are added to India’s offensive weapons capability.
It was the sustained, accurate and high-volume concentrated artillery firepower and air-to-ground strikes by the IAF during the Kargil War that eventually turned the tide for India by completely decimating enemy hideouts thus enabling the infantry to assault virtually unopposed.
Other comparable aircraft to the US made A-10 Thunderbolt / Warthog is the Russian made SU-25 which is currently bombing ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.
A dedicated ground strike aircraft cost only a fraction of a multi-role fighter aircraft such as Mirage-2000, Rafale etc. It is certain that in the coming decades, the IAF will continue to be called upon to launch ground strikes with precision munitions in support of an advancing Indian Army.
India’s current defence budget stands at $51bn most of which goes into salaries and weapons acquisition. A small part of that budget can be sanctioned to raise a minimum of 1 or 2 squadrons of these deadly weapon platforms for our western border with Pakistan.