IAF seeks permission to open fire at Maoists

Air Chief Marshall P V Naik addresses a press conference in New Delhi on Thursday. PTI

“It is a matter of great concern - the unfriendly fire. We have asked the defence ministry to give us permission to fire in self defence. But it's collateral damage that we are wary about,” Naik said at an annual press conference ahead of Air Force Day Oct 8. The IAF has been carrying out surveillance, reconnaissance, and casualty evacuations during anti-Maoist operations.

“Till then, we are taking tactical measures so that there is minimum threat to the aircraft. We take precautions in terms of the altitude we fly at, the way we descend, the uniform we wear... we do not send light helicopters for such operations. Only armoured helicopters are allowed.

“We are ensuring 100 per cent sanitisation of the area where the helicopters are landing. So that small arms cannot be used to fire upon us,” Naik added. On Nov 14 last year, the IAF lost an aircrew when Maoist rebels fired at a Mi-8 helicopter during a poll-related mission in Pedia in Chhattisgarh's in Bastar region. Asked about the possibility of using air power against Maoists, Naik said: "In your territory even if you have 120 per cent sure intelligence, you cannot distinguish between good and bad guys. And the good guys here are your own citizens. So unless I have 120 per cent sure intelligence, how can I attack my own people? The decision has to be taken at a higher level."

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