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A clear roadmap needed for an ‘Aatmanirbhar’ Air Force

Minimum dismantling of the existing IAF maintenance organisational structure would be prudent, and in line with the good, old adage: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’

Air Marshal J.K. Singh (Retd.)

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The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) has several important tasks in hand. He is working at a breakneck speed to complete all the tasks in the timebound mandate given to him. One of the prime tasks in hand is to restructure the existing commands of the three services. Contours of some of the commands, envisaged in the new dispensation are already shaping up.

 In a recent statement, the CDS underlined the significant progress towards setting up of the Air Defence Command. It is implicit in the plan, that as one goes along implementing the Theatre Command structure, the existing commands will start disappearing.

The justification for creating theatre command structure itself has intensely been debated in the past. The pace of progress towards changes is clearly indicative that the IAF arguments of non-expeditionary nature of our Air Force and limited availability of air assets to suite the theatre model, have not weighed adequately in the final decision matrix. Even as the integrated structures are shaping up, a closer scrutiny of certain specific areas may help minimize unwarranted, large-scale changes.

 IAF has two functional commands, namely Maintenance and Training. There are another five operational commands, each responsible for their designated area. The Theatre Commands will get fresh geographical regions for operational responsibilities. However, different sets of challenges await reorganization of the functional Commands. Distributing the functional responsibilities to each one of the envisaged theatres is not an option, since it will militate against the optimization of resources; one of the strong arguments in favor of creating theatres. Therefore, separate organizational structures would be needed to support the functional roles. Both, the Maintenance and Training, are distinctly different domain and their treatment has to be deliberated independent of each other. The discussion here is confined to the IAF Maintenance Command, as the theaters get carved out.

In the IAF, maintenance implies a combination of engineering and logistics functions. IAF Maintenance Command, located at Nagpur, is responsible for overhaul, repair, upgrade and modifications of equipment assigned to various IAF Depots. In addition this command also provides wholesome maintenance support to a large number of equipment in IAF inventory, which have stabilized post induction and are drawing repair and overhaul support from indigenous agencies (IAF Depots or PSUs). Warehousing of spares for entire range of equipment in IAF, indigenization and life reviews of equipment are the other areas, taken care by the Maintenance Command.

The nature of the IAF inventory is simply mindboggling. There is no other Air Force in the world that can match such a mix of vintage and variety of equipment. Besides the clearly visible equipment, like aircraft, missile systems, radars etc, there are hundreds of other equipment of varied size and complexity. This unparalleled range of equipment comes with its own sets of challenges. Over period spanning decades, IAF has evolved and established a very sturdy in house maintenance support system, adapting diverse technologies to manage equipment from different OEMs. Sustenance of several equipment, well past their originally stipulated life, has been one of the most incredible feats of the maintenance command units. Degree of difficulty of sustenance can be assessed from the fact, that IAF is the sole user across the globe, of certain equipment in this category.

The CDS is working towards an Integrated Logistics Command. Such an arrangement is envisaged to synergies the common areas under the broad head of logistics, like supply chain, warehousing and procurements of common items between the three services. However, the core functions of the maintenance would be well beyond the scope of this integrated new structure.

The Defence Logistics Agency (DLA) supporting US Armed Forces, comes very close to the concept of envisaged Integrated Logistics Command. The DLA provides logistical support of fuel, food and medical supplies to US Armed Forces across the globe, besides discharging few other functions. However the Agency does not play any role in extending technical support. The engineering and related responsibilities come under the purview of the service specific Material Commands. The US Air Force Material Command covers such areas as maintenance, modifications, overhaul, R&D and testing of weapon systems. It would be relevant to point out that US Air Force with their strong defence industrial base in the country has also set up five Life Cycle Management Centers under the Material Command. These centers have seamless interface with the relevant indigenous industry for association during R&D and subsequent manufacturing, prior to induction of the equipment into service. Similarly, almost all the other leading Air Forces have their inventory essentially comprising of indigenous equipment and have accordingly created an organizational structure to suite the ecosystem in the country.

The Maintenance Command structure is integral to the robust maintenance apparatus of the IAF. Any opportunity to critically examine ways to further improve its efficacy must be gainfully utilized. All the related aspects must be dissected threadbare, prior to initiating any significant change in the existing organization. Complexities and uniqueness of the IAF maintenance support needs be taken into account instead of imitating available templates. A credible system, that would continue to provide efficient support to foreseeable IAF inventories, is an absolute necessity.

 Minimum dismantling of the existing IAF maintenance organisational structure would be prudent, and in line with the good, old adage: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Changes, if any should be gradual, and synchronised with the commensurate changes in the nature of inventory in the IAF. This would also serve as a constant reminder, to all the stakeholders, of the urgent need to draw a clear roadmap to have an “Aatmanirbhar” IAF, with largely indigenous inventory.

Air Marshal J.K. Singh (Retd.) was the head of Engineering and Logistics of the IAF as the Air Officer In charge Maintenance at Air Headquarters. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at [email protected] com.

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Defence

Two Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists killed in the J&K encounter

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Ansar Ghazwatul Hind (AGH), an Al-Qaeda-linked terror outfit in Kashmir, has suffered a major setback. In an encounter on the outskirts of Srinagar, security forces killed two more AGH terrorists.

The AGH terrorists were apprehended after the army and police received specific information about their presence.

During the exchange of fire, forces killed two local Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists from AGH. Both terrorists are Pulwama residents who have been involved in a number of terrorist attacks.

According to police, the terrorists were also involved in an attack on a migrant worker in Pulwama.

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Defence

N. Korea enacts law on preventive nuclear strikes, France calls “threat to peace”

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France criticised North Korea’s adoption of a law announcing its preparedness to launch preventive nuclear strikes on Friday, calling it a “threat to international and regional peace and security.”

The announcement from the foreign ministry came after North Korean state media earlier on Friday reported that Pyongyang had enacted a law authorising preventative strikes, including in the event of conventional attacks.

“This new escalation on the part of the North Korean authorities represents a threat to international and regional peace and security,” said a ministry spokeswoman.

France “notes with great concern the increasingly aggressive declarations from North Korea,” she added.

The decision by Pyongyang practically puts an end to the possibility of denuclearization talks after leader Kim Jong Un said that the nation’s nuclear status is now “irreversible.”

The announcement comes at a time when the North and South are experiencing greater conflict.

In addition to conducting a record number of weapons tests this year, Pyongyang has blamed the COVID-19 outbreak in its territory on Seoul.

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Defence

China has successfully tested its first solar-powered drone capable of acting as a satellite

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A Chinese government official informed in a tweet that China has successfully tested its first fully solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), named Qimingxing-50, which can fly for months and can function even as a satellite if required.

What is the significance of this test flight?

The Qimingxing-50, with a wingspan of 50 m, is a high-altitude long-endurance drone that is capable of high-altitude aerial reconnaissance, assessing forest fire and can also be used for communications.

This technology will bolster Chinese defences in space and at sea. It can be used in the fields of renewable energy, new materials, and aeronautical engineering. The Chinese official also asserted that this test flight is an important step towards sustainable development.

Use of the UAV as a satellite:

The UAV, whose name translates as “Morning Star-50” in English, is claimed to be capable of functioning uninterrupted for months. This capability of having a long-endurance flight gives it a use case of operating as a satellite.

Like satellites, it is fully electric-driven, powered by solar energy and can operate at 20 km above the Earth’s surface for an extended period of time continuously. It is also referred to as a “High Altitude Platform Station” or a “pseudo-satellite.”

It can be used when there is unavailability or disruption in satellite services. The report says that compared to the cost and complexity of installing a satellite in orbit, this UAV is much more cost-effective and easy to operate.

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Defence

Strict security measures have been taken at the Central Vista ahead of the inauguration by PM Modi

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As Prime Minister Nrendra Modi is going to inaugurate the newly revamped Central Vista on Thursday, over 1,500 police personnel have been deployed for security over there.

A senior official of Delhi Police who is aware of the security arrangements said that the area has been divided into eight zones, which will be manned all day by eight deputy commissioners of police (DCPs) and additional deputy commissioners of police (ADCPs).

The officer, on condition of anonymity, said, “Besides 17 assistant commissioners of police (ACPs), 43 inspectors and nearly 1,200 upper and lower-rank staff of Delhi Police will be patrolling in the areas. While ten Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) companies will patrol the area during the day, two additional CAPF companies have been deployed for security arrangements during the evening shift.As many as five patrolling teams in 10 mobile patrolling vans (MPVs) will be keeping a constant watch on all the public movement in the area.” 

Another officer said that, “The Multi Zone Door Frame Metal Detectors (DFMD) have been installed at 90 points in 25 locations in the area. Apart from one anti-drone gun, one counter-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has also been installed in the area, to detect, track, and ultimately disrupt and destroy any suspicious aerial intrusion. While five teams of spotters will keep a strict vigil in the area, another five traffic decongestion teams have been deployed there to immediately remove any traffic bottlenecks in the area. As many as five SWAT teams have been deployed in the area to avert any emergency crisis.”

The official added that drones will not be permitted near Central Vista on Thursday.

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Defence

Pakistani rangers opened fire on BSF patrolling party in J&K

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As per the reports, Pakistani rangers opened fire on a Border Security Force (BSF) patrolling party in Jammu and Kashmir’s Arnia sector on Tuesday morning, prompting the BSF to respond appropriately to the “unprovoked firing”.

“Today morning the alert BSF Jammu troops gave a befitting reply to the unprovoked firing by Pak rangers on BSF patrolling party in Arnia Sector. No loss (of lives) or injury (reported) to the BSF troops,” a statement issued by a BSF spokesperson said.

On February 24, 2021, India and Pakistan agreed to strictly adhere to all agreements and understandings concerning cross-border firing along the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir, among other sectors.

Other incidents of firing by Pakistani troops have occurred in the last year and a half, but Tuesday’s incident was “a major one” and occurred on a day when Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was in India for talks, an officer anonymously said.

According to a second officer, the Indian Army and BSF respond immediately and effectively to unprovoked firings and ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the LoC and IB.

Before the agreement in 2021, there were 5,133 ceasefire violations in 2020, 3,479 in 2019, and 2,140 in 2018. However, this number dropped to around 700 last year. Statistics for 2022 are not yet available.

The Indian government has maintained that it is Pakistan’s responsibility to create a conducive environment by taking credible, verifiable, and irreversible action to ensure that no territory under its control is used for cross-border terrorism against India in any way.

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Defence

India sends the body of Lashkar terror operative via LoC in Poonch

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Pakistan accepted the body of Tabarak Hussain, Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist operative via Chakan Da Bagh on the Line of Control in Poonch district on Monday.

“Officials of the Indian Army and civil administration took the body of slain terrorist in an ambulance to Chakan Da Bagh where it was handed over to Pakistani army officials,” said a senior official.

Tabarak Hussain, son of Mistri Malik of Sabzkote in PoK, was apprehended in an injured state by the army on August 21 in the Jhanger area of the Nowshera sector in Rajouri.

Tabarak was apprehended while allegedly infiltrating with a fidayeen terror group to attack Indian army posts along the LoC.

However, Indian army troops noticed the movement and opened fire on the intruding terror group, injuring Tabarak while other infiltrators fled to PoK.

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