Committing itself to a greater role in the government's fight against Maoists, the IAF on Thursday said it has sought permission from the Defence Ministry to open fire at the Left extremists if its helicopters or air crew came under attack.
"The IAF has sought permission from the Defence Ministry to open fire in self-defence whenever our helicopters or air crew operating in the Maoist-infested areas come under attack," Air Chief Marshal P V Naik told reporters in Delhi.
Describing the Naxal attacks on IAF assets and air crew as a matter of grave concern, Naik said: "the Air Force, of course, has a greater role to play in the offensive against Naxals, be it higher reconnaissance or surveillance, troop movement and also for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) recce."
On the use of air power to track down Maoists, the IAF chief said it would be a "tricky" decision, as the risks of collateral damage in the form of innocent citizens being hit was quite high during such operations.
Referring to the US using its Drones against Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said, "it must be noted that these attacks have taken place outside the US territory. Only in Swat, Pakistan had used its forces to attack the terror groups".
"In our country, it would be difficult to distinguish between good and bad guys. A decision needs to be taken at the highest level before we go in for the attack mode," he said.
Naik said for the IAF to carry out an offensive using its air power, it would require "120 per cent" intelligence.
He said internal security has been plaguing the minds of all and the IAF was already involved in low intensity conflicts, be it Jammu and Kashmir, North East or Dantewada forests in Chhattisgarh.
The IAF, he said, flew helicopters with armour protection and also provided its men with bullet proof jackets while operating in conflict zones, as also sanitised 1.5 sq km area during take-offs and landings. PTI