Doctrinal aspects of Air Force should not be compromised by new structures under theatre commands: IAF Chief

In Eastern Ladakh, benchmark would be return to status quo ante and complete withdrawal from all the points, he said

Updated - October 04, 2022 09:57 pm IST

Published - October 04, 2022 06:48 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari. File

Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari. File | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

While the Indian Air Force (IAF) is not opposed to the process of having theatre commands, it has “certain reservations” with respect to the structures and the doctrinal aspects of the force “should not in any way be compromised by this new structure”, said IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal (ACM), V.R. Chaudhari, on Tuesday.

Speaking on the situation in Eastern Ladakh, he said, while disengagement has been undertaken in some places, the benchmark would be to return to “status quo ante” and “complete withdrawal” from all the points all along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

“The best benchmark would be return to status quo ante and complete withdrawal from all the points all along the LAC. That is the ideal situation that we would look for. All preparedness in terms infrastructure building, equipment, training and tactics is a continuous effort, irrespective of we see any belligerence on the part of Chinese or not,” ACM Chaudhari said addressing the annual press conference ahead of Air Force Day on October 8.

Also Read | Engage with caution: On India-China disengagement at Gogra-Hot Springs

Asked about the situation along the LAC following the recent disengagement from Patrolling Point-15 in the Gogra-Hot Springs area, the Air Chief said they keep monitoring the activities of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force. “Infrastructure development continues to take place at a rapid place across the LAC particularly Eastern Ladakh sector.”

To questions on increased air activity by the Chinese along the LAC, he said they continuously monitor it by enhancing their own air defence efforts there. We have increased the presence of our radars and Surface to Air Guided Weapon (SAGW) systems and have integrated them into Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS) network, ACM Chaudhari said. “Appropriate non-escalatory air-defence measures are taken, always in time. We have been able to signal our intent and signal our state of readiness with the actions taken so far.”

Further, he said that Confidence Building Measures (CBM) between India and China are in place and they have ensured that none of the CBMs are violated. In case there is a violation, we now have an Air Force officer who represents us in the border talks, he said referring to the conversations between ground commanders to maintain peace.

“In the last border management talks, we had an Air Force officer, and the various air violations cases have been communicated to them in that. We will use the Army hotlines for communicating any air violations,” he stated.

While India insists that two more friction points remain for disengagement, Depsang, and Demchok, China has rejected any return to status quo ante.

Theatre Commands

With Gen. Anil Chauhan taking over as the second Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) last week, the stalled process of tri-service integration which includes reorganisation of the armed forces into integrated theatre commands is expected to get back on track.

“We are fully supporting the integration process. It is only the methodology and the kind of structure that need to be future ready is what we are insisting,” the Air Chief said. On what future ready means, he said it should be shorter decision making, reduction in the layers of command and control and more importantly to synergy the core competencies.

“Each service has a doctrine. The doctrinal aspects of the IAF are what I am worried about, should not in any way be compromised by this new structure,” he stated.

In his initial remarks, ACM Chaudhari said recent events on the global landscape have clearly indicated that the presence of a strong military is imperative to ward off external threats through deterrence and if deterrence fails, to neutralise those threats. “Therefore, the armed forces in general and the IAF, in particular, will continue to remain a lynchpin in the national security matrix both as a coercive deterrent as well as a war-winning instrument,” he stressed.

Reiterating IAF’s commitment to modernisation through indigenous routes he said the IAF is committed to the development of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)-Mk 2 and the fifth generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

However, he conceded that the IAF cannot reach the sanctioned fighter strength of 42 squadrons anytime soon. Even with the LCA-Mk1A, LCA-Mk2, and the proposed Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) “we will still be at 35-36 by the middle of next decade”, the Air Chief added.

A few months back, the Air Chief while stressing the need for an Integrated Air Defence System (IADS) to fight tomorrow’s wars said that the “creation of an Air Defence (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.

Over the last two years, the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat had spearheaded the consultations to work out the modalities before his untimely death in a chopper crash.

Female Agniveers

On the new Agnipath scheme that is currently being rolled out, ACM Chaudhari announced that IAF will induct female Agniveers next year. The Navy has already announced that it would recruit women as Agniveers in the first batch to be inducted this year end.

“Recruitment of Air warriors under the Agnipath scheme has been streamlined and 3,000 Agniveers will be inducted into the IAF in December this year... Induction of female Agniveers is planned next year,” he said.

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