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Creation of standalone air defence command may prove counter-productive: IAF chief

NEW DELHI (PTI):  Creation of a standalone air defence command may prove counter-productive as all elements of the nation's air power need work in close coordination to confront all possible future security challenges, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari has said.

The Chief of Air Staff also said on Friday that independent air defence systems in the field will have very little relevance in tomorrow's wars unless they are a part of a larger integrated air defence system.

His comments at a seminar came amid ongoing deliberations on the ambitious theaterisation initiative that entailed creation of an integrated air defence command.

"While there is a need for close coordination between all elements within the same airspace to ensure aerospace safety as well as effective air defence, creation of an AD (Air Defence) command may prove counter-productive because air defence operations are inextricably linked to counter air operations and all offensive operations, as the success or failure of one, will dictate the demands on the other," the IAF chief said.

"The 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 added.

Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said modern 4.5 and fifth generation aircraft have omni-role capability and to restrict those aircraft to any one role would lead to their underutilisation.

"Flexibility, one of the characteristics of air power, gives a planner the freedom to swing roles depending on the air situation and this must be capitalised on," he said.

The theatre commands are being planned to integrate the capabilities of the three services and to ensure optimal utilisation of their resources.

The Department of Military Affairs headed by India's first Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat last year had asked all the three services to carry out independent studies on the theaterisation plan for its rollout.

Gen Rawat died in a helicopter crash in December last.

"Independent AD systems in the field will have very little relevance in tomorrow's wars unless they are a part of the larger integrated air defence system," the IAF chief said.

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, he said.

"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," he said.

Talking about the current structure, Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said the IAF has the ability to monitor and identify all air elements within its area of interest through the Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS).

The Chief of Air Staff also said that there was a need to look at operationally integrating the ballistic missile defence capability into the integrated air defence system.

"The 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," he said.

The Chief of Air Staff also said that utilisation of sub-conventional aerial platforms by anti national elements against the country's vital strategic and military installations cannot be ruled out in view of the prevailing threat scenario.

"Lessons learnt from past events like 9/11, LTTE attack on Kattunaike airfield and post Balakot events have changed the concept of sanctity of air space and have further underlined the need for a credible air defence," he said.

"The drone attack on Air Force Station Jammu in June last year also brings to light the swathe of threats that we are likely to face," he added.

According to the theaterisation plan, each of the theatre commands will have units of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force and all of them will work as a single entity looking after security challenges in a specified geographical territory under an operational commander.

At present, the Army, Navy and the Air Force have separate commands. Initially, a plan was firmed up for the creation of an Air Defence Command and Maritime Theatre Command.

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