The Indian Air Force (IAF) chief has said that the service is not opposed to theaterisation and it only wants to ensure that its doctrine is not compromised.
IAF chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari further said that the service has some reservations about the proposed tri-services structures but emphasised that it supports the overall theaterisation.
Presently, the Indian Army, the IAF, and the Indian Navy have individual command with overlapping areas of responsibilities and roles. Under the theaterisation model, the three services in an area —a theatre— would serve together uner one officer. This would induce jointness in the three services and remove redundancies of resources deployed.
With the appointment of General Anil Chauhan as Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), it is expected that the progress on the theaterisation of armed forces would pick up pace. Theaterisation, along with other reforms, was a primary focus area of first CDS General Bipin Rawat, who died in a helicopter crash in December 2021.
At a press conference ahead of the Air Force Day on October 8, Chaudhari said, "We are not opposing any process of integration and any process of theatre commands. We have certain reservations in respect to the structures."
There has been a general perception that the IAF is not very keen on the theaterisation plan. The IAF has raised these concerns for over a year. Rawat last year called IAF a "support arm" of the military and the IAF had at the time said that it had "a huge role to play" in any integrated battle area. This has led to concerns that the IAF is not being treated as an equal to other services, among other concerns.
"The Air Force has concerns about being treated as an adjunct rather than a joint partner in war-fighting...The Air Force also has reservations about the division of its air assets, nomenclature of commands, leadership of theatre commands and dilution of the powers of chiefs," reported Hindustan Times last year.
Chaudhari said the new structures should be created taking into consideration future challenges including in the domains of cyber and space, and that there must be clarity on the decision making process. He said that there must be reduction in layers of decision-making under the new structures.
He said, "We are fully supporting the integration process; it is only the methodology and the kind of structures that need to be future ready is what we are insisting on. Each service has a doctrine. The doctrinal aspects of the Indian Air Force should not be compromised in any way by the new structures."
Chaudhari said his force is being transformed into a global aerospace force.
"Air power has the unique capability of undertaking independent strategic operations as well as operations coordinated with sister services and other arms of the national security apparatus," said Chaudhari.
He further said the IAF understands the imperativeness of joint planning and execution in future wars and it is keen on integrating the efforts of the three services.
Chaudhari added, "We believe that the model of integration that we adopt must be future-ready, it must reduce levels of decision-making, and capitalise on the strength of all three services. We need an organisational structure that is best suited for Indian conditions and our geopolitical imperatives. Traditionally, wars were fought on the land, sea and in the air. Today, newer domains like cyber and space are increasingly affecting the conduct of operations even in the traditional realms. To absorb these changes, the IAF is on the path of transformation so that we can fight and win tomorrow's wars."
(With PTI inputs)