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Focus on Enhancing Capabilities across Multiple Domains

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh pointed out that the challenges faced on the Northern and Western borders of the nation in the recent past, had been well responded to by the IAF

Issue: 04-2022By Air Marshal B.K. Pandey (Retd)Photo(s): By Indian Air Force
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh addressing IAF commanders and senior officials during the Air Force Commanders’ Conference at Air Headquarters (Vayu Bhawan) in New Delhi

Conference of Commanders of the Indian Air Force (IAF) is a bi-annual event heldin Subroto Hall located in Air Headquarters, Vayu Bhawan, the apex headquarters of the service in Delhi. The Conference of the top level leadership is aimed at addressing the issues of the IAF’s operational capabilities in the times to come. It provides the senior functionaries of the IAF a forum to discuss strategies and policies relating to further enhancing capabilities of the IAF in view of the future challenges facing the country.

The Conference also provides an opportunity to the senior leadership of the IAF to discuss critical issues pertaining to Operations, Maintenance and Administration. A series of discussions are conducted over a period of three days to address strategies and policies related to capabilities that would give the IAF a significant edge over its adversaries. The Commanders also get an opportunity to deliberate on various welfare and human resource management issues to improve administrative efficiency in the force.

The Conference is attended by the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of all the Commands of the IAF, all Principal Staff Officers and all Director Generals posted at Air Headquarters. The Conference also involves participation by senior functionaries in the political leadership of the nation and the bureaucracy. The latest such conference was held at the end of the first week of April this year and the one prior to this was held in November last year. This is a very important event for the IAF as also for the nation as it helps define the course that the service would be required to follow which essentially is to focus on and take on the most vital and challenging task that the IAF is required to have on its charter which is to meet with the challenges of national security. The military confrontation with China in Ladakh in the recent past has rendered this bi-annual event even more important and critical for the IAF from the point of view of national security.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt and senior MoD and IAF officials during the Air Force Commanders’ Conference

The Air Force Commanders’ Conference that was held this year at Air Headquarters in New Delhi, was inaugurated on April 6 by Rajnath Singh, Minister of Defence and it lasted for three days. Apart from all the senior Commanders of the IAF, there were senior functionaries from the civilian leadership who participated in the conference. These included the Union Minister of State for Defence, Ajay Bhatt and the Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Dr Ajay Kumar. In his inaugural address, the Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh shared his thoughts on issues pertaining to the upcoming challenges for the nation and the preparedness of the IAF to take on tasks related to these. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh pointed out that the challenges faced on the Northern and Western borders of the nation in the recent past, had been well responded to by the IAF as well as by the Indian Army.

The issues discussed in the conference were significant, pertinent and forward-looking. The topics discussed in the conference were relevant and contemporary in the present context and covered the entire canvas of issues and challenges related to national security that are being faced by the nation. He brought out that he was happy to observe that the directions given by higher authorities were comprehensively being discussed in the conference and would be the guiding light for all future courses of action.

In his address, the Minister of Defence also made a reference to Operation Ganga that involved evacuation of Indian citizens from countries in the neighbourhood of Ukraine where Indian citizens, studying or working in Ukraine, had taken refuge in the wake of the offensive operations against the country launched by Russia. He complimented the IAF for the evacuation effort in Operation Ganga which has been appreciated by entire nation.

The Minister of Defence brought out that the current geopolitical situation had again highlighted the need for indigenisation. To provide a boost to the growing indigenous drone industry, during the Conference, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh launchedthe “Mehar Baba Competition-II”, a contest in the growing indigenous drone industry aimed at developing technology for a “Swarm drone based system to detect foreign objects on aircraft operating surfaces”. The competitionis named in honour of the late Air Commodore Mehar Singh, who was affectionately called “Mehar Baba”.

Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, Chief of the Air Staff also delivered his address in which he exhorted the Commanders to be ready to meet all challenges and enhance their capabilities for responding in multiple domains at short notice. He also emphasised the need for conserving assets, optimally utilising resources and the need for joint-manship to enhance national security. Recently in an exclusive interview to SP’s Aviation (published in issue 2/2022, page no. 11 onwards), the CAS had mentioned that “all our efforts provide us with a quick and effective response capability to undertake multi-domain operations”.

During the Conference, the Air Force Commanders discussed a number of important issues related to future challenges in a high technology and evolving operational scenario. The theme for this Conference was ‘Optimising human resources’ and the focus was largely on the conduct of operations in a smart and efficient manner. Mitigation of threats posed by drones was brainstormed during the conference.