The Indian Air Force has sought permission from the Ministry of Defence to use fire power in self-defence when its helicopters and crew come under attack while carrying out its mission in the naxalite areas.

“We have sought permission from the Ministry of Defence to fire in self-defence but we are chary about collateral damage [to other people],’’ the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal, P.V. Naik said at a press conference ahead of the Air Force Day on October 8.

The Air Chief said attacks by naxalites against its helicopters and personnel was a mater of grave concern but for the IAF to exercise the option of using fire power to take the naxalites was “risky”, considering  that the possibility of collateral damage to innocent citizens was quite high.

“Unless you have 120 per cent intelligence [about the presence of naxalites] in an area, how can we use weapons,” he said adding that any decision on this count would have to be taken at the “higher level”.

Visualising a greater role for the IAF he said this exists in the form of surveillance, reconnaissance, transporting men and material in naxalite dominated areas, and using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

For the present, the IAF was taking all precautions needed sending armoured helicopters and even its crew wearing protective gear. He said, before carrying out any operation, the IAF is insisting on sanitising the area.

Referring to the use of drones against the Taliban, he said except in the Swat valley, these were being used in areas outside its own territory.

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