Indian Airforce plans separate UAV cadre

Rustom 2 Indian MALE UAS

Chethan Kumar, Bangalore, Feb 3 2012,DHNS

Fighter squadrons may be trimmed to meet need Increasing the dependence on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) like former Air Chief P.V. Naik terms, is not an “out of the box” concept for the Indian Air Force (IAF) anymore.
In what would be a significant move once it comes through, the IAF is already in talks to have a separate cadre for the RPVs and is in the process of drafting a proposal to be sent to the Centre.

“Just like the fighter pilots, transport pilots and so on, this will be a role-specific cadre, so that the officers are trained for a specific role from the word go,” a senior official said.
The IAF, which already uses UAVs, is in the process of multiplying the forces. And DRDO’s Rustom and Lakshya-II are also expected to be inducted into the IAF.

Air Marshal Dhiraj Kukreja, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Headquarters Training Command, Bangalore said: “…There are talks about sending a proposal for this. We currently discussing various options.”

Speaking to Deccan Herald over phone he said: “…It would be part of existing squadrons but said that the numbers might not to the same tune. Flying squadrons have about 12-15 aircraft.”

Indicating that the procurement/acquisition of the UAVs in the future will be based on very careful assement so as to balance between the manpower and the role of such vehicles, sources said that the number of UAVs however will not be as high as 12 or 15. The IAF though, is already training its personnel for this specific role as the air force already has some UAVs in its fleet.

But Kukreja said: “At present we are diverting people who are medically incapable of being fighter piolts into this role but with the kind of advances the medical field is making, we will soon see the number of such people reduce. And that is where this proposal comes in handy.”

Kukreja, while pointing out the importance of the role of UAVs, as successfully demonstrated by Israel and the US––both have separate cadres––still emphasised on the man behind the mission.

Thereby, he said, recruitment of officers or personnel specifically for a role will prove beneficial in the long ru, given the assessed dynamics of future warfare.

Threatening environment

Increasing threatening environments is pushing the IAF to increase its dependence on UAVs and sources say that the IAF is also discussing options of inducting Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) will also increase.

While a full fleet of such vehicles from Israel––the Hunters––is expected to be acquired, the IAF will also have additional combat vehicles in the future.

He said that depending on the nature of UAV, they could be deployed as independent unit out in the front, or made to be part of a station or (hand-launched type) be deployed with the infantry.

While Kukreja, who is retiring by the end of this month, could not confirm if the IAF’s personal branch has gone ahead with the proposal, Air Marshal (retd) B K Pandey said that India is already slow in initiating such a process.

Well-placed sources in the South Block said that even if the government approves creation of a new cadre, specifically for this purpose, it is highly unlikely that the Centre would authorise for additional personnel. This would mean that the IAF will have to continue diverting fighters to perform this role.

Also, a fresh training module would be needed once a new cadre gets its sanction and new types of vehicles are acquired. These would, senior officer said, be introduced at the Training institues of the IAF.