There is a deafening crescendo around the pitch for aatmanirbharta in the field of the defence inventory and not a day passes without the media featuring stories on some breakthrough or the other about indigenisation.


What is a ‘doctrine’?

A layman’s definition of doctrine is that it is ‘the best way of doing a thing’. It is developed with many inputs, the important ones being ideas influenced by past experience, present capability and capacity of technological research and development and manufacturing, human resource availability and an organisational environment that encourages free thinking and a deliberation of fresh ideas.


Why a doctrine is important for aatmanirbharata?

  • An aatmanirbharta campaign that is not based on a foundation of doctrinal thought is on a shaky wicket.
  • It is time that the doctrine of the Indian Air Force (IAF) — it is of 2012 vintage — is reviewed and made public to guide the future development and application of India’s air power.
  • Doctrine drives technology and given the ongoing advancements, the IAF doctrine would have to spell out the following to meet the challenges of the mid-century.
  • Technology has progressed exponentially. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are being refined to mimic human cognitive abilities and intuition. Their incorporation, despite monies remaining elusive for another decade or so, would be a challenge that needs doctrinal analysis.


Exploring and developing new capabilities

  • The roles and missions of the IAF would have to be re-assessed since space will be a major, if not a central, player in future conflicts. The weaponisation of space must be accepted, the Outer Space Treaty notwithstanding.
  • Conflicts down centuries have shown the advantage that accrues to the force that occupies the ‘high ground.’ Hence, an emphasis on unmanned platforms and space assets, including a capability for satellites on call would be necessary. That this would be an inter-ministerial endeavour is indeed true, but this has to be institutionalised through a published doctrine.
  • The loss of air superiority has, and will, spell doom for a nation that chooses to neglect it; the IAF’s doctrine must expound on this aspect as an imperative despite the high financial commitment required.
  • A call on how air power, with its niche strike, Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and precision attack capabilities would be merged in the drive towards jointness would be an imperative.
  • While the Department of Military Affairs and institution of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) are new, the IAF’s future ‘flight plan’ would need a doctrinal foundation; this should not be confused with the ongoing clamour for theaterisation.


Way forward

  • The world has already graduated to multi-domain operations where cyber, space, electromagnetic spectrum, influence operations et al. have been activated together or in stages to get a whole of government approach towards meeting national objectives.
  • The IAF will be just one, albeit an important, cog in the multi-domain power synchronisation for which doctrinal guidance would be a must.
  • For acceleration of fresh thought, personnel have to feel secure — they have to have the psychological high ground in order to be vocal with their ideas. The IAF’s new doctrine must accept this, even as it acknowledges that new technology would result in an information overload which actually accentuates stress in human resource.



Indian air power is at the crossroads. Considering the challenging security environment and the issue of scarce finance, the IAF needs a revised doctrine to help it navigate ahead.


SourceThe Hindu


QUESTION – With emerging forms of warfare and theatrisation of conflicts, the role of air power cannot be sidelined. Examine how the Indian Air Force needs to evolve with a new doctrine.