No decision yet on IAF plea to fire at Maoists: Antony


New Delhi : Defence Minister A.K. Antony Thursday said no decision has been taken so far on the Indian Air Force (IAF)request to fire at the Maoists in self defence.

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However, if permission is granted, the IAF will mount guns manned by Garud, the IAF’s special force, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik revealed.

“The defence ministry is studying the proposal and we will take the decision (soon),” Antony told reporters here.

Earlier in the day, the IAF chief said his force was not contemplating a “Rambo style” offensive against the Maoists.

“The IAF’s request for permission to fire in self defence did not mean an all-out ‘armed offensive’ against the people of India,” said Naik on the sidelines of the Air Force Day parade at Hindon air base.

He said the IAF was only seeking to take measures to defend itself against the ground fire from Maoist guerrillas who are increasingly becoming aggressive.

“We have approached the government to fire in self defence to protect ourselves. It is not free for all where you go like Rambo and fire at everybody. There are laid down procedures. You have to ensure minimum use of force, minimum collateral damage, firing has to be permitted by the captain of the helicopter and so on,” Naik told reporters.

IAF helicopters providing air support in non-offensive roles in Maoist affected areas have been fired at in the past. The IAF has carried out surveillance, reconnaissance and casualty evacuations during anti-Maoist operations.

On Nov 14 last year, the IAF lost an aircrew when Maoists fired at an Mi-8 helicopter in Pedia in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region.

“We are not indulging in armed offensive. We are trying to protect our men, women and crew who fly these machines,” said Naik.

“In the helicopters going for anti-Naxal operations, the measures will be taken for self defence. The first being armour, then body armour for the crew, tactical manoeuvring and sanitisation of place before take off and landing by the local agencies,” said Naik.

But when and if the permission is granted, the IAF will mount guns manned by Garud, the IAF’s special force, the air chief disclosed.