After Defence Chief calls Air Force ‘supporting arm’, Air Chief responds

New Delhi, July 3

 Air power has a huge role to play in any of the integrated battle roles, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said on Friday, asserting the Indian Air Force was “fully committed” to the theaterisation of the armed forces.

Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria’s comments on air power came soon after Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat talked about the IAF’s air defence charter as well as its role as a supporting arm to the ground forces just as the artillery or engineers support the combatants within the Army.

Referring to the situation in eastern Ladakh, the Chief of Air Staff said China has bolstered its infrastructure in the past few months though the two sides have carried out a disengagement process in Pangong Lake areas.

Gen Rawat’s comments about the supporting role of the Air Force came at a conference when asked about the growing perception that the Indian Air Force was not keen on setting up the proposed theatre commands integrating the capabilities of the three forces.

Elaborating on the IAF’s role, the Chief of Defence Staff talked about its air defence role and said one of the theatre commands will look at the overall management of the air space in the country.

“Do not forget that the Air Force continues to remain a supporting arm of the armed forces, just as the artillery or engineers support the combatants within the Army. They have an air defence charter and support the ground forces in time of operations,” Gen Rawat said, adding the force has to understand its basic charter.

Both Gen Rawat and Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria were speaking at separate sessions of a conference organised by the Global Counter-Terrorism Council (GCTC) – a think-tank.

When asked about Gen Rawat’s comments, the Air Chief Marshal said: “It is not a supporting role alone. The air power has a huge role to play in any of the integrated battle role.”

Asked about the IAF’s views on the theaterisation of the armed forces, he said it was fully committed to the proposed setting up of the integrated theatre commands.

At the same time, he added, “We must get it right.”

To a question on argument that IAF could have reservations for the theaterisation process as it does not want to split its assets which are fewer, Gen Rawat referred to the five operational commands of the force that manage its resources.

“In an overall assessment, it is a known fact that there is resistance to change. One needs to be conscious of that and fight that inherent resistance. The nature and character of conflicts will continue to change,” Gen Rawat said.

According to the plan, 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.

(Story sourced through agencies.)

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