The IAF has been at the helm of affairs in executing air operations in support of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) in Chattisgarh for many years and has prided itself in carrying out the same in strict compliance with the authorized Rules of Engangement. However, some articles on the air operations, that have appeared in the Indian print and online media recently, refer to the recent air-to-ground practice firing in the Bastar region by IAF helicopters as a shift in strategic plan by the GoI to use IAF helicopters to strafe its own people. Such misleading articles not only tarnish the image of the IAF, but also threaten to undermine the operations being carried out by IAF in support of CAPF. Recently, the IAF had to issue a rejoinder to a prominent English daily newspaper following the publishing of a misleading article on the IAF operations.
The factually correct information as regards IAF operations is as follows:
IAF has been operating its helicopters in the Bastar region for several years. During these operations, IAF helicopters deployed in logistics support of Central Armed Police Forces have been fired upon numerous times while in air and on ground, leading to injuries sustained by personnel on board. However, there have been no retaliatory attacks by the IAF. As per the authorised Rules of Engagement, IAF personnel fire only in self defence when fired upon first. The IAF has no plans to undertake any offensive strikes.
As training of aircrew is an ongoing process, air to ground firing from helicopters is a routine training exercise and must be carried out by aircrew as a part of continuation training. Such exercises are carried out at regular intervals to hone the skills and to maintain co-ordination between the aircrew and troops. A training exercise was carried out recently on a pre-surveyed air-to-ground range area which is devoid of any population.
As far as the training exercise carried out recently and air strategy is concerned, there is no deviation from the earlier stance. In fact, use of force would be strictly in compliance with the Rules of Engagement as mandated by GoI. There is no change in strategy of the IAF.
This press release is intended to clarify the stand of the IAF to the media fraternity and to all readers regarding air operations carried out by the IAF in Chattisgarh.