IAF wants Naxal-hit states to spruce up infrastructure



New Delhi: The IAF has requested the government to ensure that states hit by Left Wing extremism spruce up their infrastructure to ensure safety and security of Air Force helicopters and men deployed in anti-Naxal operations.

Interacting with reporters here, Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal (ACM) N A K Browne also said that Union Home Ministry and Chief Secretaries of these states have been requested to improve facilities as IAF choppers are parked in open during the monsoon season.

"As far as the infrastructure (in Naxal-affected areas) is concerned, yes, we have a problem. We were sure of certain amount of infrastructure which was to come up by the state government, unfortunately that has not happened," ACM Browne said.

Expressing concerns over safety of IAF choppers deployed in these ares, he said, "Our request has been to the Chief Secretaries of these states to get the infrastructure up because right now, in middle of monsoon, our helicopters are parked outside and our crew doest not have place to rest."

He said there was no proposal to put more choppers in anti-Naxal operations.

IAF has deployed six helicopters there, which are "more than adequate," he said.

Addressing a press conference before the 80th anniversary of the IAF, ACM Browne also said that chopper pilots have flown more than 5000 sorties during their deployment in anti-Naxal operations in the last two-and-a-half years.

IAF will complete three years of its engagement in these operations in December. To a question on scaling level of its deployment in anti-Naxal areas, he said IAF will soon start flying choppers with night flying capability there.

"We are close to getting Mi-17 V-5 helicopters and in due course of time we will be able to switch to full night operations.

These are far more capable (aircraft) in terms of safety and the helicopters will be able to access the areas which they were not able to meet," Browne said.

He said the Rules of Engagement for the force will not change in the anti-Naxal operations.

"The rules of engagement do not change. There is no offensive fire unless they are fired upon," he said.

IAF has also asked the Home Ministry to ensure proper engagement of troops on foot in these areas.

"We have also explained to the MHA that you can't rely on heavy-lift helicopters for every little job that you have. You also need to start clearing the roads as well and the foot on the ground should start making the difference. We are there to support them in terms of logistics support, transportation, casualty evacuation and etc," he said.

IAF has also requested the states for setting up some infrastructure for its men on semi-permanent basis.

IAF has lifted more than 30,000 troops of the Central Paramilitary Forces (CPMFs) and other passengers, in Naxal-affected areas during the course of its engagement there.

PTI