Interviews, October 2023

Sentinels of Sovereignty: IAF’S role in securing India

In the context of India’s security and safeguarding its national interests, both airpower and maritime forces hold paramount importance. These two pillars of defense, the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy, collectively wield significant influence in the ever-strategic Indian Ocean Region (IOR). As potential conflicts in the IOR become a matter of increasing concern, it is essential to underscore the pivotal role that airpower and naval capabilities play. The IAF’s extensive reach and rapid response capabilities are poised to be instrumental in shaping outcomes throughout our area of interest, ensuring the protection and projection of India’s national interests in a dynamic and evolving geopolitical landscape.

Defence and Security Alert: Today is an era of technology-driven warfare and the future wars will be fought in space. What measures has the Indian Air Force taken to secure its space installations in general and defence related satellites in particular?

Chief of the Air Staff: The IAF’s space strategy seeks to develop capabilities to enable it to have improved Space situational Awareness (SSA) which is critical for undertaking defensive space operations to protect our space assets against enemy actions. For this, we have taken various measures for vulnerability mitigation to ensure defence of own space assets. We also have in place the requisite redundancies that would help us maintain our capabilities and permit us tooperate in an environment of denial.

DSA: How will the integrated theatre command impact the operational capabilities of different
wings of the Indian defence forces, vis-a-vis Army, Air Force and Navy?

CAS: The aim of any restructuring is to achieve better efficiency and operational effectiveness. Efforts are on by the three services to develop a model of integration that is most suitable to the Indian context. However, it is being ensured that the process of military reforms is driven by logic, reason and accepted military principles. All three services are working in unison to make a model that has been designed for own conditions and focusses on our threat perception and geo-political landscape.

Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhary said that the Indian Army is also keeping an eye on the Chinese army in eastern Ladakh.

DSA: Since China is flexing its muscles in the IOR and is conducting naval and air exercises. What strategy and preparation do the IAF have to counter the influence of China in this particular region?

CAS: While, it is understood that the continental domain is our immediate security necessity, focus on the IOR is a long-term strategic imperative. Air power by nature has cross domain capability, and therefore is critical for all operations. IAF, while being conversant with the strategic and operational nuances of the maritime domain, has reoriented its approach. We have focussed our operational training in the IOR in close coordination with IN, as is evident from recent missions carried out by IAF across the expanse of the IOR. These were specifically conducted to demonstrate force projection and strategic reach of the IAF and its preparedness to respond to any eventuality in this particular region. Airpower, along with the maritime forces, will play a crucial role in any future conflict that may take place in the IOR. IAF with its long reach and responsiveness has the capability to influence outcomes anywhere in our area of interest.

DSA: What is the role of IAF in the Nuclear Command Force?

CAS: IAF is a crucial part of India’s credible nuclear triad and remains prepared for any eventuality. The inherent characteristics of responsiveness, speed and flexibility of air power increases the deterrent capability of our nuclear arsenal.

DSA: There is a suggestion that women fighter pilots should be employed in the air defence role as also for other missions within the boundaries of the nation. Doesn’t this put a limitation on the role of women in IAF?

CAS: IAF is a gender agonistic force. Women officers are employed in all combat roles of the IAF without any restriction. They have equal opportunities for all kinds of employment, professional opportunities and career progression.

Share your thoughts