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Air force in space recce
- Serving chief proposes US-style command structure

New Delhi, Oct. 21: Indian Air Force chief S. Krishnaswamy today mooted the idea of setting up a space command that will coordinate between satellites, airborne early warning systems and combat aircraft.

The air chief marshal’s suggestion was made at the air force commanders’ conference that began here today. Commanders of the three armed forces began a series of meetings to be held through this week. Krishnaswamy made a presentation at the conference that charted a course for “exploitation of the medium of space”, sources said.

In the past, too, there have been suggestions, mostly from retired air force officers, of setting up an aerospace command. But this is the first time the idea was structured and presented formally by a serving chief. Krishnaswamy’s idea appears to be more radical, and, at its extreme, can lead to a rechristening of the IAF as the Indian Aerospace Force or the Indian Air and Space Force. Or, like the US Air Force, the defence ministry can grapple with setting up an Aerospace Command under the air force.

For the moment, Krishnaswamy has called for greater coordination between agencies like the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the IAF.

Earlier this year, a Test Experimental Satellite sent up by ISRO is reported to have been used for intelligence gathering during Operation Parakram. In the understanding of Indian military observers, the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom has seen great integration between forces in the air and on the ground with surveillance systems in space.

IAF sources said ISRO imagery was used extensively by the military. With the acquisition of AWAC platforms — systems that would be capable of “acquiring” targets and guiding aircraft to combat — satellite reconnaissance by sensors in space would have to be fused into “a single military machine”. Mid-air refuellers, that the IAF is in the process of buying, would also be force multipliers for airborne command, control and combat.

Earlier, defence minister George Fernandes said acquisitions were being accelerated. On an average, there were 55 steps through which a proposal had to go before an acquisition was made. This would be slashed.

“Structural changes brought about in the defence sector consequent to group of ministers recommendations would expedite decisions in matters of procurements”, Fernandes said, inaugurating the conference.

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