In­ter­view with Air Chief Mar­shal Arup Raha

The In­dian Air Force (IAF) with 1.75 lakh per­son­nel and con­tem­po­rary equip­ment is a for­mi­da­ble force. It is evolv­ing into an aero­space force that would op­er­ate state-of-theart plat­forms and sys­tems to deal with mul­ti­spec­trum threats to In­dia’s na­tional se

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - The in­ter­view was con­ducted in mid-De­cem­ber when Arup Raha was the Vice Chief of Air Staff and des­ig­nate-Chief of Air Staff. For full in­ter­view, please look out for SP’s Mil­i­tary Year­book 2014 (42nd Edi­tion)

SP’s M.A.I. (SP’s): What has been the most mem­o­rable event dur­ing your ten­ure as the Air Of­fi­cer Com­mand­ing-in-Chief of West­ern Air Com­mand as also dur­ing your ten­ure as the Vice Chief of Air Staff (VCAS)?

Air Chief Mar­shal Arup Raha (CAS): Ev­ery ten­ure in my ca­reer has been event­ful, mem­o­rable, en­rich­ing and very sat­is­fy­ing. My ten­ure as the VCAS has been short but rep­re­sents an ac­cel­er­ated learn­ing curve in work­ing with the Army, Navy, the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD), de­fence pub­lic sec­tor un­der­tak­ings (DPSUs) and other agen­cies. It is not pos­si­ble for me to iden­tify any par­tic­u­lar event as out­stand­ing while ten­ant­ing VCAS ap­point­ment.

How­ever, the most mem­o­rable event dur­ing my ten­ure as the Air Of­fi­cer Com­mand­ing-in-Chief (AOC-in-C) of West­ern Air Com­mand (WAC) was the ex­e­cu­tion of hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance and dis­as­ter re­lief op­er­a­tions ‘Op­er­a­tion Ra­hat’ in Ut­tarak­hand in June 2013. The un­prece­dented dis­as­ter of enor­mous mag­ni­tude had called for launch­ing of per­haps the largest ever he­li­copter re­lief op­er­a­tions in­volv­ing 45 he­li­copters. Var­i­ous in­no­va­tive steps in­clud­ing the fuel bridg­ing mis­sions un­der­taken by C-130 spe­cial op­er­a­tions air­craft and Mi-26 heavy-lift he­li­copter con­trib­uted to the suc­cess of the op­er­a­tions. A record 3,702 sor­ties were flown in air­lift­ing 24,260 peo­ple to safety. This event will al­ways be re­mem­bered by the IAF and the na­tion as one of the most out­stand­ing dis­as­ter re­lief op­er­a­tions in the his­tory of our coun­try.

SP’s: Con­sid­er­ing that the spec­trum of war has been en­larged and re­quires ca­pa­bil­ity and ex­per­tise for si­mul­ta­ne­ous con­flict of dif­fer­ent types, how has this af­fected the in­ven­tory of the IAF, its or­gan­i­sa­tion and fo­cus on train­ing?

CAS: The all-spec­trum ca­pa­bil­ity devel­op­ment process of the IAF to en­hance our com­bat po­ten­tial has been fac­tored in the longterm in­te­grated per­spec­tive plan (LTIPP). Along with the ac­qui­si­tion of more ver­sa­tile com­bat plat­forms, force mul­ti­pli­ers and creat­ing net-cen­tric en­vi­ron­ment, the IAF is aware of the need to en­hance the skills re­quired of our air war­riors to be able to ab­sorb the state-of-the-art tech­nolo­gies. Hence, even on the train­ing front, we have re­vised our train­ing syl­labi to be com­men­su­rate with our fu­ture needs. These in­clude in­duc­tion of new air­craft for train­ing, like the Pi­la­tus PC-7 MkII and Hawk along with greater em­pha­sis on ground-based train­ing sys­tems (GBTS) like sim­u­la­tors, mis­sion de­brief equip­ment, syn­thetic train­ing de­vices and com­puter-aided learn­ing sys­tems.

SP’s: What is the vi­sion of the In­dian Air Force vis-à-vis the emerg­ing re­gional power sta­tus of the na­tion? What steps need to be taken in broad terms to en­able the IAF to match the as­pi­ra­tions of the na­tion?

CAS: Con­sid­er­ing our geopo­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and en­ergy needs, it is es­sen­tial that we have the ca­pa­bil­ity to safe­guard In­dia’s na­tional in­ter­est. The IAF’s vi­sion en­vis­ages a multi-spec­trum strate­gic force ca­pa­ble of ad­dress­ing the cur­rent and fu­ture chal­lenges. The ap­pli­ca­tion of aero­space power would prove to be the de­ci­sive fac­tor in any fu­ture con­tin­gency. Hence, one of our ma­jor chal­lenges is to re­main a con­tem­po­rary aero­space power which pos­sesses cred­i­ble re­sponse op­tions.

SP’s: Air power is the most pre­dom­i­nant tool in war-fight­ing and it is also be­com­ing the ‘weapon of first choice’. Is the IAF re­ceiv­ing ad­e­quate fund­ing to meet its re­quire­ments for build­ing the req­ui­site ca­pa­bil­ity?

CAS: The fu­ture threats are likely to be di­verse, var­ied and com­plex with the spec­trum of con­flict likely to range from asym­met­ric to high in­ten­sity con­flicts. The IAF needs to be pre­pared at all times to be able to suc­cess­fully meet the chal­lenges and be in a po­si­tion to ex­ert in­flu­ence in our area of in­ter­est. These as­pi­ra­tions will have to be pri­ori­tised and jux­ta­posed with the over­ar­ch­ing im­pact of bud­getary con­straints in the light of sev­eral com­pet­ing de­mands. The govern­ment has as­sured us that the re­quire­ment for ad­di­tional funds shall be re­viewed based on the progress of new and on­go­ing schemes.

SP’s: What are your views on the es­tab­lish­ment of Space Com­mand?

CAS: Es­tab­lish­ing a Space Com­mand has been a long-pend­ing need of the armed forces. The essen­tials of such a Com­mand had been stud­ied and the pro­posal is be­ing pro­cessed for ap­proval. The Space Com­mand has been en­vis­aged to have a tri-ser­vices char­ac­ter with IAF as the lead ser­vice.

SP’s: Strate­gic reach of a na­tion is also de­ter­mined by the ca­pac­ity to sus­tain op­er­a­tions far away from its bor­ders. This re­quires ca­pa­bil­ity for lo­gis­tic sup­port and co­op­er­a­tion of friendly coun­tries by way of firm bases. Has this as­pect been fac­tored in at the strate­gic lev­els of plan­ning by the IAF?

CAS: The IAF has an ex­em­plary record of pro­vid­ing suc­cour to friendly for­eign coun­tries in emer­gency con­di­tions such as tsunami, cy­clone or earth­quake. Par­tic­i­pa­tion of the IAF in in­ter­na­tional ex­er­cises across con­ti­nents such as Red Flag (USA), Garuda (France) and In­drad­hanush (UK) are demon­stra­tions of the IAF’s strate­gic reach.

SP’s: Joint and in­te­grated op­er­a­tions have been weak ar­eas in the In­dian armed forces. Has the joint doc­trine ad­e­quately ad­dressed this is­sue?

CAS: Joint­man­ship has been an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of oper­a­tional phi­los­o­phy of the armed forces. The Joint Doc­trine is­sued by Head­quar­ters In­te­grated De­fence Ser­vice (HQ IDS) in 2006 for­mally ad­dresses all is­sues per­tain­ing to con­duct of joint op­er­a­tions by the three ser­vices.

SP’s: Each ser­vice has pro­fessed its in­ter­est in ac­quir­ing net­work-cen­tric war­fare (NCW) ca­pa­bil­i­ties for the fu­ture. NCW man­dates net­worked or­gan­i­sa­tions, com­mand and con­trol and new warfight­ing method­olo­gies apart from at­ti­tu­di­nal changes. What is be­ing done in this field at the tri-ser­vice level?

CAS: The IAF re­cently demon­strated its net­work-cen­tric ca­pa­bil­i­ties in Ex­er­cise Iron Fist and Ex­er­cise Livewire in 2013. The in­te­gra­tion of sen­sors into the In­te­grated Air Com­mand and Con­trol Sys­tem (IACCS) and Air Force Net (AFNET) is an on­go­ing project and the IAF en­deav­ours to seam­lessly in­te­grate max­i­mum num­ber of sen­sors in this net­work. The IAF has taken a lead in un­der­tak­ing the req­ui­site in­te­gra­tion with Army and Navy net­works at ap­pro­pri­ate lev­els with the IAF net­work for shar­ing of rel­e­vant data.

SP’s: In­dia will soon be one of the largest economies in the world. How do you see the new role and re­spon­si­bil­ity of the IAF in this con­text in the fu­ture?

CAS: The IAF is ever ready to un­der­take any role as­signed to us by the govern­ment to safe­guard our na­tional in­ter­est as well as that of the friendly for­eign na­tions. Mod­erni­sa­tion of Air Field In­fra­struc­ture (MAFI) along with flexi-use of air space would en­able econ­omy of ex­pen­di­ture by re­duc­tion in fuel con­sump­tion and car­bon foot­print. In the fu­ture, the IAF would evolve to be an aero­space force that would op­er­ate state-of-the-art plat­forms and sys­tems, in a real-time, fully-net­worked en­vi­ron­ment and would be fully equipped to deal with multi-spec­trum threats to In­dia’s na­tional se­cu­rity.

SP’s: The na­tion con­tin­ues to be de­pen­dent on for­eign sources even for ba­sic equip­ment. What steps are needed to strengthen indige­nous ca­pa­bil­ity?

CAS: The De­fence Pro­cure­ment Pro­ce­dure 2013 lays em­pha­sis on pro­vid­ing the de­sired boost to the In­dian de­fence in­dus­try by man­dat­ing a higher pref­er­ence to the ‘Buy (In­dian)’, ‘Buy and Make (In­dian)’ and ‘Make’ cat­e­gori­sa­tion in cap­i­tal pro­cure­ment. The in­dus­try needs to come for­ward and in­vest in qual­ity in­fra­struc­ture to cap­i­talise and strengthen their pro­duc­tion base and be­come cen­tres of ex­cel­lence. The DPSUs as well as the pri­vate in­dus­try, would be in a po­si­tion to en­sure that more and more cases are cat­e­gorised as ‘Buy (In­dian)’.

SP’s: Devel­op­ment of the armed forces in In­dia has been some­what Pak­istan-cen­tric. How do you see the equa­tion with China in the event of a mil­i­tary con­fronta­tion in the fu­ture?

CAS: Our ca­pa­bil­ity build up is not spe­cific to any coun­try, but is based on an anal­y­sis of the over­all ca­pa­bil­ity re­quire­ments to face chal­lenges aris­ing in our area of in­ter­est. The IAF analy­ses its threat per­cep­tion at regular in­ter­vals and ac­cord­ingly up­dates its plans fac­tor­ing in all the en­vis­aged con­tin­gen­cies. The govern­ment has sanc­tioned a force level of 42 com­bat squadrons for the IAF. Even with the 34 com­bat squadrons cur­rently, the IAF has ad­e­quate oper­a­tional po­ten­tial to meet any emer­gent sit­u­a­tion im­ping­ing on In­dia’s na­tional se­cu­rity.

SP’s: In what time frame can the na­tion hope to see the Das­sault Rafale streak­ing across the In­dian skies?

CAS: The MMRCA is a com­plex weapon sys­tem pro­cure­ment case. The wide ranges of re­quire­ments of this project are be­ing ex­ten­sively ne­go­ti­ated with the ven­dor by the Con­tract Ne­go­ti­a­tions Com­mit­tee (CNC). The CNC has to en­sure that all as­pects of manufacturing 108 Rafale air­craft in In­dia be­tween Das­sault Avi­a­tion and nu­mer­ous In­dian pro­duc­tion agen­cies in­clud­ing the Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Lim­ited are cap­tured in the con­tract. The con­tract would be signed with due ap­proval by the Cab­i­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity af­ter be­ing pro­cessed at the Min­istry of De­fence and Min­istry of Fi­nance. The first of the Rafale air­craft would be in­ducted a few years af­ter the sign­ing of the con­tract.

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