Air Defence Command may be counter-productive, says IAF Chief

The comments are significant in the context of ongoing deliberations on formation of theatre commands

July 15, 2022 09:12 pm | Updated July 16, 2022 12:50 am IST - NEW DELHI

Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, Chief of the Indian Air Force staff. File

Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, Chief of the Indian Air Force staff. File | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

In an important clarification on the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) view on the proposed reorganisation of the armed forces into integrated theatre commands, Air Chief Marshal (ACM) V.R. Chaudhari, while stressing the need for an Integrated Air Defence System (IADS) to fight tomorrow’s wars to ensure aerospace safety as well as effective Air Defence (AD), said “creation of an AD Command may prove counter-productive”.

An integrated AD command is one of the proposed theatre commands that is in the works in addition to Western, Eastern and Maritime Theatre Commands, in what would be the biggest reorganisation of the Indian armed forces since Independence.

“While there is a need for close coordination between all elements within the same airspace to ensure aerospace safety as well as effective AD, creation of an AD Command may prove counter-productive because, AD operations are inextricably linked to Counter Air Operations and all offensive ops, as the success or failure of one, will dictate the demands on the other,” ACM Chaudhari said at a seminar organised by the Centre for Joint Warfare Studies. “AD and offensive missions are interdependent and if executed in isolation, these would not only be disjointed but also ineffective in design or execution of the joint strategy,” he stated.

Process delayed due to differences

Over the last two years, the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat had spearheaded the consultations to work out the modalities before his untimely death in a chopper crash. Detailed studies have already been carried out, and table top wargaming executed as part of this. However, the process was delayed due to differences among the Services and objections on some aspects from the IAF, following which additional studies were ordered last year to address them.

In the past, ACM Chaudhari had stated that theatrisation needs to be done keeping in mind future warfare, should be synchronised and “doctrines and strength of each service need to be kept in mind.”

The Air Chief said that work is on to integrate the space segment in order to have a truly networked IADS. “With space as the ultimate high ground, holding, securing and exploiting space will be critical in the years to come,” he said and hence, amalgamation of terrestrial, aerial and space domains into a common network will be a fundamental requirement of modern war fighting.

Towards this, we must look at operationally integrating the Ballistic Missile Defence capability into the IADS, he said, adding, “IAF’s existent technical expertise, integrated radar network, established pan-India communication and congruence of airpower and space doctrines provide us a vital solution in deployment and operationalisation of a comprehensive defence mechanism against air and space threats.”

Staying that independent AD systems in the field will have very little relevance in tomorrow’s wars unless they are a part of the larger IADS, ACM Chaudhari sounded a note of caution, “With little or no information about the ongoing air operations, such independent AD systems are more likely to cause self-harm due to lack of common identification and communication protocols.”

“To prosecute the land, maritime or air strategy independently will almost certainly lead to failure because the enemy will fight a joint and integrated war... Therefore, control of air will remain paramount for success of any operation,” the Air Chief added.

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