Army chief General Bikram Singh has launched an aggressive campaign among the top echelons of the government demanding that the Army be allowed to have its own attack helicopters. The move has triggered a fresh round of stand-off between the Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF), while many sources in the security establishment are appalled by the persistent turf wars among the three services and their failure to integrate themselves for modern warfare.
Gen Singh made the pitch for the Army to have its own attack helicopters during a meeting with defence minister AK Antony last week. The Army chief is also believed to have reiterated the demand in a meeting with national security advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon. Sources said a reluctant IAF chief may also have been called into the meeting by the NSA.
Gen Singh’s forceful campaign has surprised many in the security establishment since the issue is under examination by a high-power committee. More importantly, at a time when defence forces around the world are working towards integration into a seamless unit for fighting modern warfare, the turf battle is symbolic of the Indian reality — of each service protecting its turf, and fending off all integration efforts.
The crux of the matter is the Army’s desire to have a bigger aviation wing, including attack helicopters and medium lift choppers. Now, the Army is only authorized to operate helicopters that weigh less than 5 tonnes. Under the Joint Army Air Instruction of 1986, the Army is empowered to operate light utility helicopters for communication, directing artillery fire etc. All heavier helicopters, including attack choppers and fixed wing aircraft, are to be operated by the IAF. The Navy enjoys exemption because of its unique need for operating in maritime environs.
The Army demanded helicopters heavier than 5 tonnes, including attack choppers for itself, in the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP) for 2012-27 that it had submitted several months ago. Though LTIPP for the military was approved by the defence acquisition council, headed by Antony in April, the Army’s demand for operating bigger helicopters was referred to a panel, headed by Vice Admiral S P S Cheema, deputy chief of the integrated defence staff (perspective planning and force development), and comprising representatives from various services. This committee’s study has been underway, when Gen Singh made his aggressive pitch.
The IAF is not amused and has strongly opposed the Army’s demand, saying it would be wastage of resources. The IAF also believes that it could take up to three to four decades for the Army to inculcate an aviation culture for maintaining and flying heavier helicopters. IAF also points out that it has projected the total needs of both the Army and the Air Force in LTIPP, and does not discriminate between the two.
Sources in the security establishment are appalled by the turf wars between the services. A senior official argued that the government needs to exercise its political leadership and ensure that the three services move quickly in adopting inter-operability and developing more unified concepts.
-via The Times of India.