Pakistan and India. Two regional powers frequently at war, armed to the teeth, possessing nuclear weapons and with no end in sight to their mutual animosity. War in the Subcontinent today has very high stakes. But none higher than in their respective air arms. Given the importance of air combat to modern warfare, a crucial factor to analyze the outcome of any conflict between them becomes analyzing the viability of each air force. For wars today always begin in air combat, and the successor there often has Fate decide in its favor.
The Pakistan Air Force has traditionally been known as one of the most professional air forces in the world. But the 1990s was a tough decade for the PAF and much of their prestige was lost. Pakistan chose to invest in nuclear weapons and diverted resources there. Damaging sanctions against Pakistan also hurt the PAF more than any other armed service. Thus, a decade was lost and PAF was left behind.
The Indian Air Force meanwhile, found the 1990s most fruitful. They progressed in leaps and bounds as the Indian economy expanded, military equipment from the West and Russia opened up and the IAF started learning and incorporating Western standards of air combat. Yet there were times when India’s political environment forced itself upon the IAF. Forced to wait for a local replacement for its MiG-21s that has been in development for over 20 years, and forced to abandon purchases because of political interference from within India, the IAF, on the turn of the century, found itself restrained.