IAF in Naxal-hit areas but no `Rambo style offensive’

IAF will deploy its commando units to defend its men & machine in Naxal-hit areas, but is not contemplating a Rambo style offensive against Maoists.

Zeenews Bureau

Hindon (UP): The IAF on Thursday said it will deploy
its commando units to defend its helicopters and men on board
in Naxal-infested areas, but made it clear that they would not
carry out any "rambo-style" operation against the Maoists.

IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik told reporters here
that the Garud special forces would be present in the
helicopters flying in Maoist-hit areas for rescue operations
and would defend their personnel and equipment by warding-off
attacks by Naxals on them.

"It is not a free for all like `Rambo` that we will go and
fire in the countryside. The helicopters operating for
casualty evacuation will be mounted with guns and the Garud
force will man them," Naik said on the sidelines of the 77th
Air Force Day parade here.

There are laid down procedures. You have to ensure minimum use of force, minimum collateral damage, firing has to be permitted by the captain of the helicopter and so on, Naik told reporters.

Asked about the IAF request to the government to allow
opening of fire in self-defence, he said the Cabinet Committee
on Security will decide the matter.

"I want to reiterate that I am totally against armed
forces -- Army, Navy and Air Force -- being used in internal
situations. We are meant to defend threats from across the
border," he said.

Naik, however, said, "If the states requires any help we
are always there to give it in terms of casualty evacuation
and insertion (of security forces)."

IAF helicopters providing air support and non-offensive roles in Maoist affected areas have been fired at in the past. The IAF has carried out surveillance, reconnaissance and casualty evacuations during anti-Maoist operations.

On Nov 14 last year, the IAF lost an aircrew when Maoists fired at a Mi-8 helicopter in Pedia in Chhattisgarh`s Bastar region. Referring to the killing, Naik said this made the IAF request the Defence
Ministry to permit it to open fire in self-defence.

He said the request was to ensure that the IAF could
protect its personnel and platforms and suppress the fire
coming on to a helicopter.

The IAF has sought permission from the defence ministry to fire in self-defence.
"We are not indulging in armed offensive against the people of India. We are trying to protect our men, women and crew who fly these machines," said Naik.

"In the helicopters going for anti-Naxal operations the measures will be taken in self defence. The first being armour, then body armour for the crew, tactical manoeuvring and sanitisation of place before taking off and landing by the local agencies," said Naik.

However, once permission is granted, the IAF will mount guns manned by Garud, the IAF`s special force, the chief revealed. He maintained that the Air Force was not deploying its
armed helicopters or aircraft to bomb any area in Naxalite-
affected regions.

IAF not part of any anti-Naxal offensive: Govt

Government tonight said use of IAF
helicopters in any offensive against Naxals is not part of a
strategy in its new plan to deal with rising Maoists`

Shortly after the Cabinet Committee of Security(CCS)
approved the Government`s new action plan to combat Naxals,
Union Home Secretary G K Pillai said it was not contemplating
the use of Air Force helicopters for any offensive purposes
even in self-defence.

"We are not contemplating the use of Air Force
helicopters for any offensive purposes even in self-defence,
because we will be able to...We have worked out strategies
that will ensure that...we would ensure that the Naxalites are
not able to fire at the helicopters as they come in for
landing," Pillai told a news channel.

He said the strategy for using Air Force helicopters is
primarily for three purposes -- one for casualty evacuation,
two for surveillance, and three for mobility.

Pillai`s comments came even as Defence Minister A K
Antony said it was studying an IAF proposal to open fire at
naxals in self-defence.

"However, the Ministry doesn`t want to enhance the role
of the armed forces in the anti-Naxal operations more than
what it is doing at present," Antony said.

Pillai also said the basic strategy now will be for the
security forces to go into areas where civil administration is
not functioning to dominate the area.