NEW DELHI, Oct 2: Seeking to use air power that it had shunned even in perennially volatile Kashmir, the Indian Air Force has asked for the government’s permission to open fire in Maoist-controlled regions of central India to boost a massive campaign against what New Delhi says has emerged as its biggest security threat, The Hindu reported on Friday.
The paper said the IAF is providing support to the government in its operations against Maoist guerrillas, also known as Naxalites. It referred to alleged attacks on IAF personnel that resulted in the death of an “air warrior” last November. In this context India’s Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik said on Thursday the force had sought permission from the Defence Ministry.
“As of now, the IAF was using armoured helicopters with crew that was in protective gear, and was insisting on sanitising the area of operation,” The Hindu said.
India has only once used air power against rebels in the 1950s in the northeastern region.
The Hindu said Sergeant Mustafa Ali lost his life in a Naxal attack on an MI-8 helicopter on November 14, 2008, in Chhattisgarh during election duty.
However, the Air Chief visualised a greater role for the force in the anti-Naxal operations. According to The Hindu, he said air power, now used in casualty evacuation, could be expanded for reconnaissance, surveillance, and transportation. The IAF was putting to use its Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to collect data in the Naxal-hit areas, including those under forest cover.