Wherever you read online apparently air power is necessary nowadays to win any conflict. But is it a reality?
Truth be told maintaining a modern air force is expensive and very few countries in the world have the ability to maintain a credible air fighting capability.
For a developing nation like Bangladesh maintaining a truly capable air force might be difficult.
Yes, modern air combat platforms such as F-16s or Rafales allow the battlefield commanders the ability to conduct strikes but that comes at a cost as well.
Munitions are very expensive, especially guided ones. Moreover with the advent of unmanned aerial vehicles having more and more payload we have to strike a balance between manned platforms and remotely operated ones.
Say for example if the plan for the Bangladesh Air Force was to maintain 10 air combat squadrons then I would suggest the following number of squadrons:
- 2 x MRCA (Twin engine fighters of Western origin)
- 4 x Interceptor (Single engine fighters of Western origin)
- 1 x Maritime strike (Twin engine fighter or Western origin)
- 1 x AJT (Yak-130 have ability to perform CAS role)
- 2 x IJT (K-8W & L-39ZA have ability to perform CAS role)
This force mix must be supported by a fleet of UCAV units:
- 8 x MALE (medium altitude, long endurance) up to 30,000 ft (9,000 m) and range over 200 km – Sayedpur x 1, Sylhet x 1, Dhaka x 1, Jashore x 1, Chattogram x 2, Barishal x 2, Cox’s Bazar x 2
- 2 x HALE (high altitude, long endurance) over 30,000 ft (9,100 m) and indefinite range – Barishal x 1, Chattogram x 1
If Bangladesh wants to maintain a credible air defence and strike capability it has to spend at least $10 billion by 2041 to ensure this plan can be successfully incorporated. There has to be investment in the domestic production of spares, avionics, munitions and development of MRO infrastructure in different parts of the country in a decentralised manner.
Bangladesh government has the ability to invest in the development of air power of the country. There are external factors such as regional pressure to consider. It is a fact that some neighbouring countries do not want Bangladesh to have a strong military capability. The government must remain vigilant against schemes of those country as well when considering development of its air fighting capabilities.
Both India and China proved to be unreliable strategic partners. In each turn they naturally opted to ensure their own strategic interests so as such there is no reason for Bangladesh to be accommodating to those two countries.
Platforms are one thing but considering the level of investment require it is important to build up optimum human resources to ensure maximum utilisation of the investment in air power.
The air force must ensure dynamic individuals are promoted, laggards rooted out earlier on. If required they should seeks assistance of more capable air force’s to develop the Bangladesh Air Force.
Bangladesh Air Force maintains strong relations with the Turkish Air Force, Royal Air Force and the Italian Air Force. Their technology, planning and experience could be incorporated in to building a modern Bangladesh Air Force.