‘Not Just That…’: IAF Responds After Chief of Defence Calls it Army’s ‘Supporting’ Force

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Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat’s recent remark calling the Indian Air Force ‘a supporting arm’ of the military, specifically the Army was received by the force with much displeasure. As a result the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, countered this, saying the Air Force is not just a supporting arm but has a wider role.

The military turf war gained momentum on Friday after Bipin Rawat was heard calling the armed forces just a supporting arm of the army much like artillery or engineers who support the combat units in the Army. “The Air Force is required to provide support to ground forces. Do not forget that the Air Force continues to remain a supporting arm to the armed forces, just as the artillery supports or engineers support the combat units in the Army,” said Gen. Rawat. “They will be a supporting arm. But they have a charter. They have an air defence charter and supporting the ground forces in times of operations. This is the basic charter which they have to understand,” he was quoted saying.

Responding to Rawat and in a fresh attack, Bhadauria stated that airpower has a huge role to play in any integrated battle area. It is not an issue of support alone, and there are a whole lot of things that go into any air plan that is made.

“There are issues in terms of some of the options that are being discussed,” he said, adding: “We must get it right. It is the most important reform that has an impact on warfighting.” Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria said.

The defence ministry has set up a high-level committee that includes the three vice-chiefs of the armed forces and the Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff to rule out differences in theatre commands among the three services and other ministries.

The IAF, however, has concerns over dividing its limited number of aircraft among different commands. Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria said that every service has its own doctrine and has the best knowledge of how to employ the capabilities and capacities to get the desired results. “Whenever we have a system, which is integrated we must look at that entire doctrine. The abilities of the services must be brought in, and it must be a synergised result,” he said.

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