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Realignment and Indian Air Power Doctrine: Challenges in an Evolving Strategic Context

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-44
JournalJournal of Indo-Pacific Affairs
Issue number1
Early online date28 Oct 2018
Accepted/In press28 Oct 2018
E-pub ahead of print28 Oct 2018
Published2 Jan 2020

King's Authors


With a shift in the balance of power in the Far East, as well as multiple challenges in the wider international security environment, several nations in the Indo-Pacific region have undergone significant changes in their defense postures. This is particularly the case with India, which has gone from a regional, largely Pakistan-focused, perspective to one involving global influence and power projection. This has presented ramifications for all the Indian armed services, but especially the Indian Air Force (IAF). Over the last decade, the IAF has been transforming itself from a principally army-support instrument to a broad spectrum air force, and this prompted a radical revision of Indian air power doctrine in 2012. It is akin to Western airpower thought, but much of the latest doctrine is indigenous and demonstrates some unique conceptual work, not least in the way maritime airpower is used to protect Indian territories in the Indian Ocean and safeguard sea lines of communication. Because of this, it is starting to have traction in Anglo-American defense circles. The current Indian emphases on strategic reach and conventional deterrence have been prompted by other events as well, not least the 1999 Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan, which demonstrated that India lacked a balanced defense apparatus. This article examines the evolving doctrinal thinking of the IAF and argues that the service is transformational in the way it situates the use of airpower in addressing India’s security environment.

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