It is not unusual for an executive head of a state to hit the headlines when he embarks on a tour abroad. If he is rubbing shoulders with a number of important world leaders, the significance scales up and so does the media glare.Prime Minister Modi, however, is different. He makes waves- not just arouse curiousity. Be it the UAE or the USA, Modi’s arrival energises the Indian diaspora with unprecedented excitement. In many a instance even the local nationals sit up, take note and admire the man’s suave soft skills and steely nerves.
As the Indian Air Force celebrates the 83rd Air Force Day on 08 Oct 2015, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, PVSM, AVSM, VM, ADC, Chief of the Air Staff, in a frank and forthright interview with South Asia Defence & Strategic Review (Defstrat) articulated his views on a number of contemporary issues facing the IAF. Replying to our questions, the CAS in a freewheeling manner, addressed issues related to force planning, combat readiness and HR management in the IAF amongst others. Excerpts from the interview:
INDO –UAE TIES: LOOKING WEST
In what has been considered a major boost to India’s far from mature aerospace sector, the European aerospace and defence major,Airbus Industries, has inked a deal with Mahindra Defence, a part of the multi- billion dollar Mahindra conglomerate, to float a joint venture to manufacture a variety of choppers in India and also bid for defence contracts under the Make in India initiative of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
India has the 3rd largest armed forces in the world. 40% of budget is spent on capital acquisition, and practically 15% of revenue budget on in- service defense stores and ammunition. 60% of requirement is met by imports. The cumulative budget for 15 years is approximately 50 lakh crore.
A PLA Navy (PLAN) flotilla comprising of three warships, an amphibious assault ship and a supply vessel were sighted in the Bering Sea off Alaska in early September 2015. Pentagon spokesperson confirmed that Chinese warships had entered the US territorial waters and the US authorities had “not detected any sort of threat or threatening activities’ but were puzzled by the presence of the PLAN ships close to US shores since the ‘intent of this is still unclear’.
The recent earthquake in Nepal had once again highlighted the vulnerability of the still evolving planet earth. India Air Force (IAF) was the first to reach the disaster hit Himalayan nation with Quick Response Teams (QRT). PM Modi’s quick decision followed by Indian Armed Forces mobilization to support Nepal made headlines for many days. Washington praised India for its “remarkable” response and described the country’s disaster management capabilities as sophisticated and advanced and US greatly appreciated India playing a regional role.
Nobel Prize winning author and iconic realist Ernest Hemingway defines courage in his memorable Spanish Civil War novel ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ as ‘grace under pressure’. Had he added ‘untrammeled genius’ to this definition, he could well have been describing Capt JK ‘Chotu’ Sengupta. An amazing Cavalry officer-turned-entrepreneur-cum-social worker, Chotu (called ‘Jojo’ by family) became ‘profoundly blind’ in medical parlance after a Cobra missile hit his Centurion tank turret during the September 1965 Indo-Pak War.
While the Subject Matter Experts in the field forces on land sea and air are at pains to celebrate many a virtues of UAVs and the UCAVs in the combat domain and while we regularly see the cutting edge technology at work, in continuously revamping the unmanned machines from ‘singles’ to ‘swarms’ from ‘GCS controlled’ to ‘fully autonomous’ from ‘stand-alone’ operations to ‘teamed configuration’ with manned platforms and more… my case is quite different. I talk of the unmanned revolution that is unstoppably unfolding in the civilian domain.