IN AN unprecedented move, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa, the Chief of Air Staff, has written a personal letter to each officer of the Indian Air Force (IAF), asking them “to be prepared for operations with our present holdings, at a very short notice”.
The letter, signed March 30, also covers a range of issues from “favouritism” in the force to “sexual harassment”. Written three months after ACM Dhanoa took over as IAF Chief, the letter is being posted and delivered to each of the nearly 12,000 officers of the force.
This is the first time that an IAF chief has written a personal letter to all officers, although two Army chiefs — Field Marshal (then General) K M Cariappa on May 1, 1950 and General K Sundarji on February 1, 1986 — have penned similar missives.
“In the present scenario, there is an ever persistent sub-conventional threat. Therefore, we need to be prepared for operations with our present holdings, at a very short notice.
Training needs to be focused towards this,” says the letter.
The “sub-conventional threat” is said to be a reference to the ‘proxy war’ by Pakistan, which is reflected in the increasing number of terror attacks on military camps and the rising public unrest in Jammu and Kashmir.
The mention in the letter of “our present holdings” is an indication of the severe shortfall in the number of fighter squadrons with the IAF.
The IAF is authorised 42 squadrons of fighter aircraft but its current holding is down to 33. A deal for 36 Rafale fighters, signed with France, and a decision to induct indigenous Tejas fighters will barely make up for the de-induction of the MIG series of fighters from the fleet.
Asking officers to be “combat effective professionals”, ACM Dhanoa writes that “there is no choice but to stay abreast of new technological advancements both own as well as that of our adversaries. Only then will we come out with war-winning, out of the box solutions.”
The letter also reminds officers that “in the recent past, there have been instances and occasions where lack of professionalism has shown the IAF in poor light”.
Indulging in uncharacteristic plainspeak, the IAF chief writes that “we have been witness to a few instances of ‘favouritism’ in selection of officers for prime assignments and promotions”.
“This is something we can ill afford,” the letter says.
Pointing out that “officers holding responsible appointments tend to display ‘Milk of Human Kindness’ while dealing with those involved in wrongful practices”, the letter warns that “abusive behaviour, resorting to physical intimidation and behaviour amounting to sexual harassment by seniors is not acceptable”.
The letter also lays to rest apprehensions about participation by the families of officers in activities of the Air Force Wives Welfare Association (AFWWA) and Ladies Club, calling them “voluntary”. The IAF chief wrote that “(IAF) stations are not judged by their performance in these activities but on operations”.
When contacted by The Indian Express, an IAF spokesperson described the letter as “internal communication” and refused to comment on its contents.