Indo-Pak standoff: A look at how India's air force compares with Pakistan's

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Feb 28, 2019, 03.06 PM(IST)

Representative Image. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

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In terms of personnel, the Indian air force (IAF) is the fourth largest in the world with over a lakh and 20 thousand soldiers and with nearly 813 combat aircraft, India's air force is significantly stronger.

Tensions are on the rise between India and Pakistan since the pre-dawn airstrikes on Jaish-e-Mohammed launch pads on Tuesday in retaliation to Pulwama terror attack; though military combat looks unlikely at the moment, it is important to take note of the capabilities of the two nuclear-armed countries.

As both India and Pakistan have significantly strong air forces, here is a look at how Pakistan's air force compares with India's.

In terms of personnel, the Indian air force (IAF) is the fourth largest in the world with over a lakh and 20 thousand soldiers and with nearly 813 combat aircraft, India's air force is significantly stronger.

On paper, the Indian air force is a more advanced and developed force than that of Pakistan.

Pakistan air force (PAF) has over 65 thousand personnel and possesses nearly half the number of combat aircraft that India does.

Also read: India will fight as one and win as one, says PM Modi

India ranks fourth among the countries in terms of combat aircraft with 5 per cent of the total share. Pakistan is ranked at number eight.

In terms of tankers, India is ranked seventh in the world with seven active fleets. Pakistan has seven airborne early warning and control aircraft while India has only four.

But the devil-as always is in the detail.

India has 33 fighter squadrons while Pakistan has 25. A ratio of 1.3 to 1, still better than the Pakistan air force. But down from the 3 to 1 ratio three decades ago.

One, a squadron-to-squadron comparison does not throw much light on-field capabilities.

And two, IAF's serviceability is much better than PAF's which means more IAF aircraft is available for a mission at any given time.

The nature of the fleet is also important for understanding capabilities.

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As of 2017, Pakistan air force had 141 F-7 combat jets, 37 F-16a/c jets, 40 JF-17 jets and 69 Mirage 999 ep jets. It also had 90 Mirages 5-EF fighter jets. Besides these, 

Pakistan has ordered around 60 j-f-17 jets.

The country also has two falcons 20/200, 4 king air 350, 4 Saab special mission jets and 4 II-78 tankers.

The Indian air force, in comparison, has 117 Jaguar M/S combat aircraft, 262 MiG-21 fighter jets, 79 MiG-27, 66 MiG-29, 44 Mirage 2000 h, 162 Su-30MKI and one Tejas LCA fighter jets.

India has placed orders for nearly 144 T-50 Sukhoi fighter jets and 36 Rafale fighter jets.

India also has one 707, 2 g-100 Astra, 3 Gulfstream III special mission jets and 7 II-78 tankers.

However, size is just one side of the story when it comes to comparing the capabilities of air forces.

It's one thing to have more and superior jets, which India clearly has. But conflicts in the present-day run the risk of turning nuclear.

And both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers.

India has nine types of operational missiles, including the long-range Agni-3 missile.

Agni's range is between 3000-5000 kilometres.

In comparison, Pakistan's missiles are short to medium range missiles which can reach up to 2000 kilometres.

Pakistan has 140-150 nuclear warheads while India has 130-140 such warheads.

India's defence budget is five times that of Pakistan's and with this year's high allocation, India will have more to build its arsenal.

But, the presence of old fighter jets which are retiring soon and the ability to replace them in time have bogged India down while Pakistan air force has modernised its inventory in the meantime.

India though remains a superior power in terms of its air force, but time is running out. Indian air force needs an upgrade. The recent incidents only serve to highlight this aspect.

Pakistan army on Wednesday violated ceasefire for the fourth consecutive day in Kashmir's Rajouri district.