The Government has approved the creation of a Weapon System branch for officers in the Indian Air Force (IAF). This was announced by the Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari at the Air Force Day parade to mark the 90th Air Force Day celebrations at Chandigarh.
- Moving to synergise operational requirements of the Indian Air Force, the government has approved the creation of a new Weapon Systems branch.
- This branch will be responsible for all IAF weapon system operators, and bring them under one roof.
- This is the first time since Independence that a new operational branch of IAF is being created.
Key highlights –
- A separate specialised cadre of officers will be raised by IAF —
- With rapid technological advances in stand-off weapons and armed drones changing the very nature of warfare, the IAF will now raise a separate specialised cadre of officers.
- These officers will handle advance missiles, space-based systems, surveillance and combat unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
- New cadre will be inducted by the end of 2023 —
- The first lot of new officers for this new Weapon Systems Branch (WSB) in the IAF will be inducted by end-2023.
- The branch will be headed by an Air Marshal rank (equivalent to Lt-General) Director General of weapon systems.
- Four sub-branches —
- The WSB will have the four sub-branches —
- flying (weapon systems operators in twin-seat fighters like Sukhoi-30MKI fighters),
- remote (operational crews for RPAs (Remotely Piloted Aircrafts) and drones),
- intelligence (information warfare, image and signals intelligence specialists) and
- surface (mission commanders and operators of surface-to-air guided weapons, surface-to-surface missiles other than close-in weapons systems. The newly imported S-400 missiles from Russia will be part of this.).
- At present, units of different kinds of air defence and precision-strike missiles as well as UAVs in the IAF are largely commanded and staffed by officers (pilots and navigators) from the flying branch.
How will it be significant?
- Savings to the exchequer —
- It is estimated that the creation of this branch would result in savings of over Rs 3400 Crores due to reduced expenditure on flying training.
- It will be a fully operational and gender-neutral branch of officers who will not undergo the expensive and time-consuming flying training, especially for fighter pilots.
- Active pilots will also not have to be diverted to missile and other units
- Unification of all weapon system operators —
- The existing branches in the air force include the flying branch, engineers, administration, accounts, logistics, meteorology and education.
- With the creation of the weapon systems branch, operators of ground-based and specialist airborne weapon systems will come under one umbrella.
- Creation of specialist branch is the need of hour —
- Weapon systems have become very sophisticated, requiring personnel with deep specialist knowledge to operate them.
- Ever since the Sukhoi-30 with the rear Weapon Systems Operator position and UAVs entered the IAF inventory, the demand for a specialist branch was felt.
About the Air Force Day –
- The day aims to pay a tribute to the Air Force of India and acknowledge their contribution for a successful nation.
- On October 8, 1932, the former British Empire established the IAF.
- It was created to support the British Royal Air Force, particularly against Japan in World War II.
- The IAF was used to attack Japanese bases in Burma in order to stop the Japanese army’s advance toward India.
- King George VI gave the IAF’s accomplishments the prefix “Royal” in 1945.
- This honorific title was dropped in 1950, when India became a republic.