Russia-Ukraine conflict: We are witnessing unfolding of truly hybrid warfare for first time, says IAF Chief

There is a lot to learn from it, says Air Chief Marshal V. R. Chaudhari at the 7th national leadership conclave of the All India Management Association

April 12, 2022 02:23 pm | Updated 04:42 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari. File

Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari. File | Photo Credit: PTI

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict is the first time we are witnessing the unfolding of “truly hybrid warfare” and is a reflection of complete multi-domain operations that are taking place, said Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief Air Chief Marshal (ACM) V. R. Chaudhari on Tuesday while stating that there is a lot to learn from it.

Watch | IAF Chief V. R. Chaudhari on the Russia-Ukraine conflict

“We are witnessing the use of drones, hypersonic weapons, aircraft of all sizes and types and ground forces all working in unison against the backdrop of economic sanctions and diplomatic heft,” ACM Chaudhari said in response to a question at 7th national leadership conclave of the All India Management Association. Further questioned on where the focus should be, he stated, “Is it only in hardware? Is it going to be through soft power. Is it going to be a multitude of all this. Primarily what it amounts to is to be able to reimagine, to reinvent, to be able to rededicate and retrain ourselves for future conflicts.”

Speaking on the ‘The future of air warfare: Securing the sky and beyond’, the Air Chief noted that traditionally, wars had been fought on land, at sea, in the air and to some extent, in space while in the past two decades, this spectrum had increased to encompass cyber and information domains. “The overarching effect of cyber and information on the conduct of conventional wars has created a new, hybrid and multi domain spectrum of conflict resulting in older tactics and strategies becoming passé.”

Stressing on the need to adapt to this new emerging paradigm, ACM Chaudhari said cyber and information had become the modern tools for shaping the battlefield. Future warfare was likely to be hybrid in nature and the spectrum of conflict would be spread across all domains spanning from “conventional to sub-conventional, kinetic to non-kinetic and lethal to non-lethal, all under a nuclear overhang,” he said.

The weapons would be ranging from a small computer virus to hypersonic missiles, ACM Chaudhari said emphasising on the need to develop capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict and focus on multi-domain operations.

Talking of hypersonic weapons and of reports that they were used in “ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict”, ACM Chaudhari said due to very high speeds, these missiles were difficult to intercept making existing air defence systems redundant. “The IAF is actively involved in research and development for such weapons and in developing counter measures,” he stated adding that it was best to develop them indigenously than going for collaborations.

Watch | What are hypersonic weapons?

On the challenges faced by the IAF, ACM Chaudhari said that during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation in Eastern Ladakh also unfolded. Stating that the IAF was on high alert while simultaneously providing full support to the nation’s fight against COVID-19, he said the transport aircraft fleet of the IAF flew to 18 countries clocking 4800+ flying hours in around 2900 sorties distributing aid to friendly countries across the globe.

Additionally, over 2600 hours were flown within the country for transportation and positioning of oxygen and medical supplies wherever required. “The total distance covered was over 27 lakh kilometres, which is like flying to the moon and back _ four times over,” he stated putting the effort in context.

The tactical advantage that ‘high ground’ offers was a must-achieve criteria even today and air power provided that high ground and ability to bypass the fielded forces to hit targets in great depths with speed and precision, the Air Chief said and added, “The importance of aerospace power in the larger security framework has grown manifold and would be increasingly critical to handle future security challenges.”

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