IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik on Wednesday said he was not in favour of use of air power in anti-Maoist operations, a day after the worst ever Maoist attack in which scores of CRPF personnel were killed in Chhattisgarh.
As the government took stock of the situation and mulled various strategies, Air Chief Marshal Naik said the IAF will be ready to join the operations against the Maoists if a decision is taken in this regard.
He said the Military is trained for lethal operations to inflict maximum lethality. “The military — Air Force, the Army and the Navy — are not trained for limited lethality. The weapons that we have are meant for the enemy across the border.”
“Therefore, I am not in favour of use of Air Force in situations like the Naxal problem,” the air chief said.
He said it is the prerogative of the state when the Maoist situation reaches that level to involve the Armed Forces.
“They can order us at any time. At the present moment, we must leave it to the paramilitary forces because they are trained, they are slowly being equipped. They have the intelligence also to undertake these operations,” he added.
Air Chief Marshall Naik also visualised a scenario if the IAF is called in.
“Let us say that air force is called in for attack in Naxal locality and it needs to fire a rocket, which is fired at a minimum distance from 1500-1800 m... from that distance we are not able to visualise what the target is,” he said.
“Unless we have 120 per cent intelligence that they are enemies, it is not fair to use air force within our borders. The basic thing is Naxals are our own citizens,” he said, when asked if it was time for the military to join the anti-Maoist operations.
Home Secretary Gopal K. Pillai on Tuesday ruled out use of air power in the fight against Maoists.
“I don’t think we need to use air power at the moment. We can manage with what we have. Our strategy is unfolding and we should be able to manage without air power,” he said.
Air Chief Marshall Naik said Air Force involvement was already there in form of “casualty evacuation, in case of logistic support... but direct attack role, I don’t think the situation calls for it.”
He said there was a massive effort on in Dantewada to bring the casualties back home. Two Air Force planes and three helicopters are there for the work, he added.
The Air Chief Marshall was at the South Western Air Command (SWAC) for a two-day Commanders’ Conference.
Air Chief Marshall Naik also advised the Commanders to maintain a very high level of operational and preparedness at all times, keeping in view that Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra are frontline States.
He further said that the SWAC was a very important command, covering Rajasthan to Goa.
“The Indian Air Force is slowly emerging as a strategic force with power projection capabilities,” Air Chief Marshal Naik added.